A look inside Rockford’s Barber Colman Complex

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — An industrial powerhouse in Rockford has sat vacant for nearly two decades, but the former Barber Colman building could soon be redeveloped.

“This is Barber Colman, the powerhouse,” said Robert Wilhelmi, Brownfields Redevelopment Specialist for the City of Rockford.

The Barber Colman Complex has sat empty since 2002. The City of Rockford acquired the property when it shut down.

“The complex stretches for about 17 acres, and the buildings and campus are approximately half a million square feet,” Wilhelmi said. “The first of the buildings were built in 1902.”

There are 10 buildings on the property. Barber Colman was best known for creating textile machines. Between the 1950’s and 1960’s, more than 3,000 people were employed.

“If you wanted a poster child for the city’s industrial heritage, Barber Colman is it,” Wilhelmi said.

The Milwaukee based J Jeffers & Company now wants to carry on that heritage, and signed a letter of intent showing their interest in redeveloping the property.

“It didn’t take long from the time of walking,” said Brian Loftin, Senior Vice President of Development for J Jeffers & Company. “The first time I walked through it, to know there was something big here, and we would love to figure out how to make that work.”

The company specializes in working with historical properties, and Loftin said that the group sees potential.

“So, being able to bring housing, being able to bring job creation and opportunity with that commercial and retail pieces,” Loftin said. “When you’re this large scale of project, you’re going to need all those things.”

Crew members were out getting 3D scans of the property on Wednesday, which will be used to develop a plan. The process could take nearly a decade to complete and cost between $400 and $500 million.

“Where you see something that’s run down, we’re actually able to see what could be there,” Loftin said. “You know, the space we’re standing in the powerhouse, it will be a great restaurant, a great event space.”

The city said that it is excited about the future of the site.

“This will be a huge catalyst for southwest Rockford, and what it will do is be the piece of the puzzle that’ll connect southwest Rockford to Downtown Rockford,” Wilhelmi said.

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