The Rockford Files

True Love Ways

For the past 40 years, Rockford’s Midtown district has seen more downs than ups.  Centered on Seventh Street from First Avenue to Broadway, southeast of the main part of downtown, Midtown—once a bustling commercial and cultural center at the heart of a Swedish neighborhood—was, for far too long, a haven for prostitution and drug use.  Readers may recall that an “adult” bookstore on Seventh Street provided the sordid backdrop for the murder of Richard Misslich in 1985, an event that played a major role in my July 2002 column, “Cui Bono?”  But Misslich’s murder just scratches the surface of the problems that once plagued the neighborhood.

In recent years, however, Midtown has been making a comeback, through the efforts of a variety of actors—most notably the Midtown District Association, headed by Bill Mohr, and other local organizations, including Zion Development.  The massive expansion of the campus of Swedish-American Hospital, located northeast of Midtown, and the city’s simultaneous decision to reroute Charles Street south of the hospital (and to pay for the construction entirely with Midtown TIF district funds, over Bill Mohr’s objection) have made some difference as well.  While there are still too many vacant storefronts (especially at the southern end of the strip), restaurants and specialty shops that have opened on the northern...

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