Friday, January 23, 2015



By Kelsie Passolt

Redeveloping a failing public housing complex in Rockford could move forward whether aldermen like it or not.  But, housing leaders say they’d rather pursue a partnership with the city.

At a community meeting Friday, Rockford Housing Authority regroups after a partnership is rejected at city hall.

“We don’t want to be at odds, that’s not what we’re here for,” says RHA CEO Ron Clewer.

That collaboration could’ve resulted in millions of dollars from the federal government, some of it would’ve been used to tear down and replace public housing at Fairgrounds Valley.  But, the majority of aldermen couldn’t see eye-to-eye with Rockford Housing Authority on those plans.  Clewer says there’s a way to redevelop the housing complex whether aldermen support it or not.

“If we bring down the number of units on-site and we go ‘straight zoning’ we can go zoning-by-right.  We don’t need council approval other than on the plat, as long as we’re legally conforming for the plat, they can’t say no and if they do, there would be a battle to be had.  Next would be the building permits.  If we meet all the building codes they can’t say no,” Clewer explains.

But, instead, Clewer says he’d rather open up a dialogue with aldermen and come up with a plan for Fairgrounds that both sides can agree on.

“If we’re the only ones making strategies and you say you don’t like it, well then let’s get together and talk about what your strategy is,” says Clewer.

In the meantime, transforming Ellis Heights outside of Fairgrounds will continue.  Construction has started to build a grocery store, which many residents say they want in the neighborhood.  Plus, a community center could open up within the next three years.

RHA plans to round up Ellis Heights residents and go to the city council meeting Monday at 5:30 p.m.  That’s where Clewer says he’ll ask to start a conversation with aldermen on moving forward.

Read the story at 13 WREX here: