When the heavy equipment gets going, MercyHealth will completely transform a busy piece of land on Rockford’s northeast side. The massive project will include a hotel, room for restaurants and retail, to go with its state-of-the-art health care facility.
On Monday, local dignitaries dug in on the largest construction project in Rockford history. The $485 million Mercyhealth expansion is just the latest on a list of major projects for the City of Rockford. Combined with the first tournament held at the new Sports Factory downtown this past weekend, its been a week of prosperity for the Forest City.
“It means a lot for jobs,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL). “It means a lot for economic development and a lot of future potential. But, beyond that, it’s great for the healing of the community.”
At the Chicago-Rockford International Airport, the Jet Repair Hub is set to open this summer, and construction is expected to begin around Labor Day on the hotel and conference center at the former Amerock site downtown.
Could the winds of economic change be finally blowing in the right direction?
“I’m very proud that we’re seeing… historic investments,” said Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey (I). “We’ve got tremendous investments taking place throughout the community. it’s a great thing to see and that helps support prosperity for everyone.”
The city took heat for lowering the bar for Mercyhealth, by slashing permit fees in half after the company threatened to build in Beloit. However, Mercyhealth CEO Javon Bea says the agreement to build a hotel to sweeten the pot shows their true commitment to the area.
“It should’ve been done a long time ago,” said Bea. “So, the fact that it’s happening shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody and I think all the support that occurred at the federal, state, and local level is because everyone knew the need was here for it.”
“We did compromise on the fees,” concedes Morrissey. “But, we’re getting a lot more in return.”
Despite the health care boom, concern remains that the West side will be left behind.
“I think that we can continue as a community to work with Mercyhealth systems and encourage them to continue to invest in the Rockton Street location,” said Rep. Litesa Wallace (D-67th). “I know that is something that I will continue to speak for.”
The project will include the following:
- Women and children’s hospital
- Level 1 trauma center
- Level 3 NICU
- 1,500 jobs created
- 200,000 sq. ft. community center at the Rockton Street location
- Completion date: end of 2018