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Rock Falls authorized to buy frontage property

Land could make Parrish-Alford site more attractive to developers

Published: Wednesday, June 4, 2014 1:15 a.m. CST • Updated: Wednesday, June 4, 2014 9:33 a.m. CST

ROCK FALLS – The council on Tuesday approved the city’s purchase of property in the downtown TIF district they hope will help spur development at one of the riverfront’s “bookend sites”.

The council authorized the city to buy the building – which most recently housed a laundromat along the north side of West Second Street – from owner Henry Steinhagen for $50,000.

The city wants the frontage property, because they believe it makes the former Parrish-Alford site much more attractive to developers.

“We have developers interested in Parrish-Alford, but we need the frontage property to make it more developable,” City Administrator Robbin Blackert said. “Then we have everything on that frontage but the houses.”

Environmental consulting firm Terracon, in its 2008 community plan, referred to the former Parrish-Alford and Reliant Fastener sites as the “bookends to the larger Riverfront Redevelopment Area”. The Parrish-Alford site is about 6.5 acres of land north of West Second Street between Fifth and Eighth avenues. The Reliant site along East Second Street consists of 10 parcels on 11 acres.

The purchase agreement contains an important caveat, city attorney Jim Reese pointed out to the council members.

“The purchase is contingent on an environmental assessment report from Terracon,” Reese said. “The city reserves the right to withdraw from the contract.”

Terracon will conduct a Phase II environmental study of the property and convey its subsequent report to the council.

A Phase I environmental study was done at the property a few weeks ago, City Administrator Robbin Blackert said. She said the city hasn’t yet decided whether the building will be demolished.

“There is the possibility of contamination from the former industrial sites nearby,” Blackert said. “We’ll see how the Phase II assessment comes out, and if it’s insurmountable, we’ll take it from there.”

Blackert said any remediation can be done in conjunction with development.

The riverfront land purchase comes on the heels of last week’s announcement that the city will receive a $200,000 federal Environmental Protection Agency grant to do environmental assessment work at the Limestone Building.

Blackert said she is working with engineering firm Willett, Hofmann & Associates on an OSLAD grant for the riverfront. The Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development program provides grants for acquisition and development of land for public parks and green space. It is administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

“This is the first of many development grants we’ll be going after,” Blackert said.

In addition to a splash pad, the city is also exploring the possibility of adding a skate park to the riverfront plans.

“We definitely would want it in a visible place,” Blackert said. “Kids are going to be on the green space, and they deserve their own space there.”

When asked about a time frame for breaking ground on the new riverfront hotel, Mayor Bill Wescott said there won’t be one until a site plan is received from the developers.

Next meeting

The Rock Falls City Council next meets at 6:30 p.m. June 17, at City Hall, 603 W. 10th St. 

The agendas will be posted at www.rockfalls61071.com and at City Hall. Call 815-622-1100 for more information.

The City Council meeting also can be viewed live on Channel 5.

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