Transform Rockford

Barber-Colman redevelopment is too important to fail.

Barber Colman Rendering
This illustration shows the vision for the future Colman Yards mixed-use development at the old Barber-Colman manufacturing complex in south Rockford. (Rendering via J. Jeffers & Co.)

“Well, I tell them there’s no problem”

“Only solutions”

“Well, they shake their heads and they look at me, as if I’ve lost my mind… “

— John Lennon, “Watching the Wheels”

Music inspires us, soothes us and unites us. The unity part is most appropriate as we strive for solutions so a blighted area of our city can be redeveloped into a complex that residents in the area and throughout the city can be proud of.

Of course I’m referring to the proposed redevelopment of the Barber-Colman campus.

Unity is one of the shared values that the community adopted years ago as Transform Rockford began its mission of making this a top tier community.

Our shared value of Unity places the greater good of all parts of our region and its transformation ahead of self or organizational interests. … The greater good is placed ahead of self or organizational interests. That is worth repeating.

Inclusion, caring, respect, transparency, trustworthiness, ideation, responsibility and interconnectedness are the other values

We must live these and not just wear them on T-shirts.

Transform Rockford is committed to advocating for this project because it is for the greater good of this community.

It will revitalize a section of our city that sorely needs it. There has been investment on the southwest side, but there’s a huge gap between the sections that have been improved and the Barber-Colman campus that has been left to decay. That gap must be filled in.

We will keep trying to get to yes, to get to a community win, until we’re told there’s no point in doing so. Or, that a deal is done and progress can be made.

So how do we get to yes. I’m not just referring to a yes vote on Barber-Colman but …

  • Yes, I want to live here
  • Yes, I want to work here
  • Yes, I want to do business here
  • Yes, I’m safe here
  • and yes, my kids can get a good education here

People who say yes want the entire city — east, west, north and south — to be vibrant and welcoming. Let’s get there.

This is not a time for finger-pointing or playing the blame game. That is not a path forward.

This is when we as a community need to demonstrate resilience and work toward a future where residents no matter their ZIP code feel as if they are valued, engaged, inspired and have access to opportunity for leading successful and fulfilling lives.

However, it is time for citizens to become more engaged. Elected officials have difficult jobs and they need to hear from you — the people who they represent and who voted them into office — whether you think they are doing what’s right and whether you think they are embracing the greater good.

If you think they are doing a good job, tell them. They would appreciate your support. If you disagree with where they stand, it’s even more important that they know it.

Maybe I have lost my mind, but I think there’s a way forward, and what has been an embarrassment and an albatross to the southwest side of our city will soon undertake a long needed transformation.

The complex has been deteriorating for more than two decades, and there should be a sense of urgency to get the revitalization started.

Gov. JB Pritzker was in town July 6 to announce that Metra plans to begin rail service between Chicago and Rockford by 2027.

That’s four years away. It would be a shame for the Barber-Colman campus to look the same as it does today when the train rolls through town.

Transform Rockford began its mission 10 years ago with the stated goal of becoming a top 25 community by 2025.

However, community improvement is a continuing process. Making the top 25 would not be an achievement if we slid back the next year or the year after.

We need to continually strive to make this community the best it can be — something worth singing about. Our residents deserve nothing less.

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