The development plan presented to Sterling recently leaves questions for some and doubt for others. The question for us individually is, What will I do? Will I stand on the sidelines and jeer in disbelief, or will I sweat with the people striving to make our riverfront a better place?
If we do nothing, those buildings will eventually fall into their tombs and be left to memory. We can tell our kids about what used to be, and live with the regret that we never tried.
In order for anything to succeed, we must first give it consideration.
Buildings like those cannot simply be bulldozed and made way for a park. Parks don’t pay taxes.
If we desire any form of stability in our personal property taxes, it will require us as citizens to develop every asset we have to its highest potential.
Fortunately for us, we are in good hands. Sterling city leaders, both private and public, have chosen the very best of city planners and developers. Developers and investors are a dime a dozen, but we have someone different. We have Gary Anderson.
I have worked in commercial development and construction for 21 years, from Chicago to the Quad Cities, and I can tell you Gary is different. He does not see our city as a profit center. He views himself as a partner. I have sat many times with him at his office and mine as we have daydreamed about the possibilities and the great potential the riverfront has on both sides of the river.
For one side of the river to be successful, the other also has to be successful. As you know, a river has two sides. We need to reflect each other in order to realize the highest benefit.
Sterling and Rock Falls should be partners – not competitors. Each city has a unique opportunity.
When a project or development is presented to an owner, the biggest impediment to its success is the doubt that it can be successful. If redevelopment had not been done in other cities, I would agree with you that there is no way; but it has.
We share a river with another city – Rockford – that has developed and is continuing to develop its river corridor. Condos, storefronts and historic restorations have worked in harmony to bring back a tax base that some thought was lost forever.
We have the opportunity in front of us. As those buildings breathe their last breath, we can become partners with those who have laid the first stone and driven the first nail. We can reshape our riverfront on both sides and mold it to reflect the best of both communities.
Hope with me – not against better judgment or common sense, but in the fact that others have been where you have been – skeptical, unsure and ignorant of the process.
I have made my choice. I will not adhere to the gutter religion of “it can’t be done.” I will sweat.
Note to readers – Scott Hibbard is president of Northwest Commercial, Inc., a union signatory construction company. He currently is restoring the home of Dr. Moses Royer at 401 E. Second St., in Sterling.