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Officials gathering more info on potential $4 million riverfront development

Grant for next phase to be submitted next year

ROCK FALLS – Rock Falls wants to develop its riverfront, but it's a long process.

During the Rock Falls Committee of the Whole meeting Monday night, the City Council received a presentation on the progress of the city's riverfront development project, which is having its planning phase funded in part through a grant.

The development would signal a shift in the riverfront's role in the city's economy, said Dave Schreiber, of SAA Design Group, the Madison, Wis.-based design firm that's among the companies working on the project.

While the riverfront was once a manufacturing area, the current development plan would make its future economy about creating a destination, he said.

The current plan, which was estimated between $4 million and $4.5 million, calls for a bike path from the lower dam, west of the First Avenue bridge, to the Hennepin Canal pathway and the pedestrian bridge, which would allow residents to connect to Sterling's riverfront path.

Cooperation with Sterling and initiatives like the Bridge the Community run on Sept. 14 create a regional emphasis that helps in the grant process, said Dave Webber of Wendler Engineering.

The plan also includes a parking lot, the size and location of which was discussed at length Monday night, a boardwalk area, public space and land set aside for possible private sector development.

Rock Falls received a $300,000 grant through the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program in 2010. The city is responsible for $60,000 of that.

Webber said he expects the state Department of Transportation to open another round of ITEP grants in August 2014, when the city could apply for funds to cover the engineering and possibly the construction phases.

Leading up to the next round of applications, Webber, the rest of the planning team and the city will work to finalize elements of the plan as well as budgeting. There will be another presentation to the City Council, likely during the September Finance Committee meeting, Mayor Bill Wescott said.

The ITEP grants are competitive, with about one in five applicants being accepted, Webber said.

To date, Rock Falls has spent only about $60,000 of the $300,000 grant, City Administrator Robin Blackert said. The city pays all of that up front, but is then reimbursed by the state for 80 percent.

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