Downtown Development Brings New Life to Rockford

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Rockford City Officials cut the ribbon on yet another downtown project.

A new pedestrian bridge that was once a railroad track now connects the bike paths that run on either side of the river. The bridge is just one of several downtown projects that officials say are bringing new life to the Forest City.

“We had neglected our central city for many years,” said Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey. “Now that we’re investing, we’re starting to see the return on that investment.”

“When you build that environment, you start to see that investment, you start to see more small business investment, you start to see more pedestrian traffic. And we’re seeing the results of that with increased revenues,” adds City Manager Jim Ryan.

Mayor Larry Morrissey says projects like the UW Health Sports Factory, riverfront bike paths, and the Morgan Street Bridge are what attract people — and investors — to Rockford.

“We know that amenities like bicycle paths, pedestrian paths, these riverfront connections, are earning an investment from the private sector,” said Morrissey.

But projects like this new pedestrian bridge have not been without controversy. The mayor says there were difficulties convincing some City Council members that these projects — most of which cost millions of dollars — would be worth it. Ryan says having funding from outside the city helped get the projects approved.

“With the financial difficulties we’ve had, there’s never a good time,” said Ryan. “But what we’ve tried to do is leverage outside resources, federal and state grants. UW Health Sports Factory was built with 12 different funding sources.”

Morrissey says he knows the projects aren’t always popular, but believes they benefits outweigh the cost.
    
“These are resources that can bear fruit for us, but it’s up to us to invest in those natural elements that we have.”

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