By Kevin Haas
Rock River Current
Get our mobile app
ROCKFORD — City Council members on Monday approved plans to build a mix of affordable and market-rate homes near the corner of South Avon and Cedar streets.
Aldermen voted 10-3 to OK a special-use permit that allows Rockford Housing Development Corporation to move forward with the 116-unit development, which also includes an early learning education center, culinary institute, vertical agriculture greenhouse and commercial space.
The vote came after about 30 minutes of discussion. Mayor Tom McNamara reminded council members before the vote that the item before them was only about zoning, and it could come back before the council at a later date when developers hope to reach a deal with the city for assistance on the project.
Developers hope to bring that request forward within 60 to 90 days. Ron Clewer, vice president of the development corporation, said the group is pursuing new market tax credits in hopes it would not need to ask the city for any subsidy on its portion of the project. However, a portion of the project that includes 64 apartments built by Wisconsin-based developer Gorman & Co. may require assistance from the city.
Gorman and Co., which was the developer behind the downtown riverfront hotel that opened in 2020, would build 64 of the apartments under the Section 42 low-income housing tax credit program, which is intended to incentivize private developers through federal subsidies to build or rehabilitate affordable rental housing. The owners of such developments must keep rents restricted and available to residents with low incomes.
The rest of the project would be handled by RHDC with Kee Solutions as the general contractor and David Sidney of Place Foundry as the project manager.
A vote on the $47 million project had been delayed since May 1 because of the death of Alderwoman Linda McNeely, who represented the 13th Ward where the proposed development is located. Alderman Jeff Bailey was sworn in to succeed her on July 10. He voted against the special-use permit.
The approval of the project on Monday allows Rockford Habitat for Humanity to go forward with building up to two single-family homes later this year. The nonprofit could build six such homes as part of the project in total. The rest of the project is contingent on the additional funding.
“Affordable housing in a crisis not just in the city of Rockford and Winnebago County but across this state and across this entire nation. There are so many people here in our city that are both underhoused and unhoused,” said Keri Asevedo, executive director for Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity. “This will go such a long way in insuring that people in this community have a safe place to lay their head at night.”
Alderman Tim Durkee expressed concerns with the city adding more subsidized housing.
“I think Avon essentially is a housing project wrapped up with pretty bows to entice our vote,” Durkee said.
He said the city should focus on enforcing standards at its existing subsidized housing stock so that those units are repaired and upgraded.
The project also includes plans to rehab a 21,600-square-foot brick building at 915 Cedar St. for small storefronts, one-bedroom apartments and a market space for makers and small businesses.
The other homes and apartments would be built on vacant land formerly occupied by Rockford Gas Light and Coke Co., which was demolished in the 1960s. The property went through several stages of environmental cleanup and in 2016 the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency issued a letter saying no further remediation was required.
Aldermen Frank Beach and Chad Tuneberg both said they were supporting the zoning permit Monday, but were reserving comments on the project as a whole for when the developer returns to council at a later date.
How they voted
In favor: Karen Hoffman, Frank Beach, Bill Rose, Chad Tuneberg, Jonathan Logemann, Kevin Frost, Aprel Prunty, Gabrielle Torina, Isidro Barrios, Gina Meeks
Against: Tim Durkee, Janessa Wilkins, Jeff Bailey
Absent: Mark Bonne