The Rock Falls Micro Building will be missed when it’s gone

Sauk Valley Letters to the Editor

The oldest building in Rock Falls. The Micro Building. The “Eyesore.” One of the last vestiges of the International Harvester “Rock Falls Works” complex.

This 1860s building helped create Rock Falls. Yes, it looks terrible. Busted windows, rusty metal, broken, stained, and crumbling bricks, but underneath all of that, the reinforced concrete bones of this building were built to last forever. For nearly 2 full years I’ve been trying, and fighting intensely, for someone to come along and save it, turn it into something worthy of its former glory.

Some folks came along and asked here and there, but the powers that be in Rock Falls just won’t let it happen, and despite being shown overwhelming evidence that it could and should be revitalized to serve our community, they just won’t budge. They want to see the money up front. We need housing in the Sauk Valley, studies have proven it.

The first floor could even hold numerous spaces for small businesses who would love to work in a historic space, but without the city administration researching ways to reuse what this could be, all of this possibility will be erased forever with a wrecking ball. Funded by a grant named Rebuild Illinois, leadership in Rock Falls will use its open-ended ruleset not to rebuild, but destroy the most historical building in our downtown, and administration continues to push ordinances and motions through council who just trust administration to be correct and pass whatever they bring to the council meetings.

At any moment, even right now, the city could use less than 1% of the $2.2 million grant to purchase a $15,000 all-encompassing feasibility study for revitalization that will disclose all costs and ideas, but they just won’t budge. I’m having a hard time thinking of how to forgive our leadership for making such a massive mistake that they don’t even seem to understand they are making, while also desperately exhausting every option to save the historic building with help from local citizens of the town, preservation groups, state organizations like Landmarks IL, the State Historic Preservation Office, Sterling Rock Falls Historic Society Archives, and more, but without a multimillionaire who will come in and sweep away the most difficult parts with money, nothing else will capture the administration’s attention.

Since they also won’t promote this, they are doubling down on ensuring the structure’s demolition as well, and that is so irresponsible for what this could be for our downtown. I completed a preliminary evaluation for it to be entered into the State Historic Registry, to open up millions of dollars to rehab the entirety, but the city was ill-met with the findings again. I shared the story of this project with dozens of local developers and architectural firms in Rockford and the Quad-Cities, all of which are elite level and highly capable businesses that took an interest in it, some even toured, but the city rejected their findings.

All Rock Falls city administration has to do is simply explore and study the possibility, but they just choose not to. When this building lies in a pile of rubble, I’m sure most who don’t know what it could have been will see its destruction as a win, and half of the empty lot of what was will be turned into a parking lot, to supplement the culture nearby. I’m sure some people will be thrilled over that alone.

The rest of the lot will surely be put up for sale by the city for some “negotiable amount” and will sit empty for another 10 years as we have seen with so many other empty lots. Maybe somebody some time from now will come along and buy part of the land, build a steel-frame strip mall, and we’ll have a brand new downtown building with a handful businesses, like an obscure bank branch, a gambling parlor or title loan office.

Unique to us, we will never have anything like this building in our downtown again, and it’s an absolute travesty that it had to transpire like this. No one within the city, or the council, is even trying to look into other means.

Marshal Doane

Rock Falls

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