Stories

Repurposing Downtown: article in The Rock River Times

Amtrak station proposal aims to springboard local deconstruction industry

August 27, 2014

The former Charles Joseph building at 514 S. Church St.

• Amtrak public hearing set for 7 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 3, at Park District headquarters

By Jim Hagerty
Staff Writer

A Rockford man will take his vision of building a downtown Amtrak station with re-purposed materials from the same building to city officials next week.

Bill Howard wants to re-purpose materials from the west end of the former Charles Joseph building at 514 S. Church St., and use them to redevelop the east portion into the Amtrak station. The city is considering the site for the hub, which would place it across from the $53 million Ziock Building hotel project.

The problem so far is that Rockford does not have a deconstruction industry. There is no prevailing wage, making the bidding process difficult, if not impossible. Howard says that could all change with this project.

“A deconstruction industry centers on the systematic dismantling of obsolete structures with the philosophy of re-use, salvage and recycled material,” Howard said. “This will reduce, if not eliminate, landfill obstacles, address global warming, preserve raw materials, teach valuable skills and utilize untapped human talents.”

Howard has already begun deconstructing the Charles Joseph building. His crews have been engaged by the previous owner as part of a settlement agreement when the city acquired the property. He is now circulating a petition he will present at a Sept. 3 public meeting about the possibility of the Church Street Amtrak station.

Following (in italics) is the petition:

We, the undersigned are:

1. In favor of locating the Amtrak Station in the area south of Cedar Street between South Main and Court streets.

2. In favor of creating jobs by deconstructing the existing warehouse at 514 South Church Street, and utilizing the saved materials in the construction of the new station.

3. We also value the historic significance of the warehouse and advocate for using the existing east end of the structure as a component of the new station.

We understand the inherent values of the above and wish to bring these to the public officials making the decisions to which this public hearing is directed.

A. Exercising the above recommendations will make a statement to the world that Rockfordians value their history.

B. Exercising the above recommendations will let the world know that we understand the detrimental effects of demolition waste buried in landfills.

C. Jobs created by this action will result in the creation of a permanent deconstruction industry that would influence the building industry with environmentally friendly products.

D. This action would fundamentally add character and substance to current and future downtown revitalization efforts.

Howard says Rockford is ripe with possible deconstruction sites. What could be salvaged from the former District 205 Administration Building, 201 S. Madison St., is one he says could get under way along with an Amtrak project.

“Soft stripping the building of its marble stairs, walnut banisters, massive woodwork, hardwood floors and even the good acoustical ceiling tiles would yield substantial revenue,” he said. “This deconstruction would showcase the ‘recycle and re-use’ principle, and save tons of perfectly good building materials from adding to our diminishing landfill capacity.”

The Amtrak station public hearing is from 4 to 7 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 3, at Rockford Park District headquarters, 401 S. Main St., downtown Rockford.

From the Aug. 27-Sept. 2, 2014, issue

History Unfolding...or is it folding?
An Architectural Treasure
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