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Residents react to city’s pledge to bring down blighted New Fellowship Baptist Church

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The demolition of a blighted Rockford church that sat untouched after a partial collapse is finally on the city’s to-do list.

New Fellowship Baptist Church, at the corner of 2nd Avenue and South 4th Street, has been an eyesore for over a year and nearby residents haven’t been happy.

“It’s sad to see it sit this way for so long,” said nearby property owner Thomas Rose. “[It’s been] without anybody taking the initiative to do something about it.”

The once place of worship has sat as a shell of it’s former self since August 2017 and city leaders blame an ongoing court battle for the delay. Rockford legal director Nicholas Meyer says the city had to step in after recently reaching out to the attorneys for the church and it’s insurance company.

“After those conversations, there wasn’t going to be a resolution in the near future,” said Meyer. “At this point, we’re taking the steps to complete the demolition by giving the 30 day notice.”

If in those 30 days, the church doesn’t file an objection or bring the site to code, the city will then go in and clean the site. For Rose, it’s news he’s been waiting to hear.

“I’ve put a lot of work into my house,” said Rose. “New roof, new painting and everything. It’d be nice to not have a pile of rubble next door.”

Midtown District board member Guy Spinello has been outspoken about the delay. He hopes the cleanup will be done sooner, rather than later.

“It’s exciting to me that the City is going to move forward to clean it up,” said Spinello. “Not only is at an eyesore right now but it’s also dangerous.”

Meyer adds the city wants to give property owners a chance to fix the problem but say it will step in if it’s not done in a timely manner.

“If you own property, you have an obligation to the people around you to make sure it’s taken care of,” said Meyer. “If we believe the property owners aren’t going to live up to that obligation when giving the chance to do so, then we’re going to step in behalf of the neighborhood and the citizens of Rockford to make sure it happens.”

The 30-day notice ends just after the new year. City officials estimate the cost of the clean up will be around $80,000. They add they’ll be looking into methods to collect the costs if an agreement between the church and it’s insurance company doesn’t happen.

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