The shell of what was once one of Rockford’s most vibrant factories has sat vacant for years. That’s about to change, and while renovating it will be very expensive, City and County officials believe the benefits outweigh the costs.
“To see something that, to the naked eye, looks like an eyesore, that’s going to be turned into a real gem, I’m very excited about it, very proud of the community leaders here,” says Congresswoman Chery Bustos as she toured the former Barber Colman facility on Rock Street on Tuesday, after announcing a $2.2 million federal economic development grant to help get the Colman Village project underway.
Bustos has driven by the former textile factory many times, a longtime eyesore for the city, and looks forward to seeing the site transformed.
Rock Valley College is set to move its manufacturing, automotive and industrial training programs to the facility.
Bustos added, “This is all coming together for a project that will mean jobs, will mean re-training of people to fill existing jobs, and just good news ahead for Rockford.”
Rockford mayor Tom McNamara and Winnebago County Chairman Frank Haney also touring the facility alongside Congresswoman Bustos. McNamara recalled the property being purchased by the City all the way back in 2001. The building has vacant since because of concerns over the costs of renovating it. Long-term, that’s more than $32 million. However, Mayor McNamara believes the cost of renovations with federal help are a better alternative to demolition.
McNamara said, “If you tear something down, it’s gone forever. So, I think it means a lot that the community is rallying over an important project at an important parcel of our community.”
Construction is expected to start for the Colman Village towards the beginning of 2018.