The Rockford Files

Home, Sweet Home

The Rockford Institute sits on the northern edge of Rockford’s downtown, at the upper end of a stretch of North Main Street that local boosters have dubbed “the Cultural Corridor.” The corridor is not much even by the standards of modern cities—a few museums, the Coronado Theatre, the New American Theater, the Rockford Woman’s Club, the Mendelssohn Club, and us (though the boosters often overlook that last one)— but, without it, our downtown would be in even worse shape than it is. Urban renewal in the 60’s and 70’s, including an ill-planned “pedestrian mall” that closed off two blocks of Main Street immediately north and south of State Street, the main east-west corridor through downtown, along with the massive growth, from the 80’s on, in Rockford’s Wasteland (the far-east-side development of big-box stores, chain restaurants, and vinyl-sided tract homes), has wreaked havoc on a once thriving downtown. Native Rockfordians still recall when downtown was so crowded on Sunday that cars had a tough time passing through. Today, no major business (outside of restaurants) in downtown is open on the weekend, and the pedestrian mall may feel the footfalls of no more than a dozen people on most Sundays.

As he comes to the end of his first year in office, Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey would like to change that. Morrissey’s commitment to downtown has been abundantly...

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