Community Voices: Great things around the corner for the Twin Cities of Sterling, Rock Falls

Jim Wise

Ah, summer is here – the season of vacations, hot days and cool nights. The Twin Cities’ unique blend of evening delights is a testament to our community’s vibrancy and your crucial role in it. From the enchanting open-air concerts in the parks to the lively festivals and many mouth-watering food options, our cities offer a unique experience. During the day, the rhythmic sounds of construction and the distinct smell of fresh asphalt remind us of our collective efforts in the Twin Cities’ continuous growth.

The other day, I talked with Rock Falls Mayor Rod Kleckler, who is excited about all the new things happening in his hometown. We discussed the positive impact of the new grocery store, a new coffee shop and a truck stop, on the local economy and the Twin Cities.

The development of the Route 40/I-88 intersection is a significant step in our region’s growth. Moore Tires, for instance, relocated there following their fire a few months ago. New housing is on the horizon near this intersection, and the truck stop will be located here, too. More exciting developments will soon be underway north toward the Route 40 and Route 30 intersection, bringing even more jobs and meeting the growing needs of our vibrant communities. The Route 40/I-88 intersection is shaping up to be the gateway to Rock Falls, a symbol of growth and opportunity for the region. We can’t help but feel the excitement and hope for the future as we anticipate the opening of these new businesses.

The Riverfront Park – I’ll call it Wire Mill Park since that is where the old NWSW Wire Mill used to sit. Or maybe we should call it Nail Room Park? For now, we will refer to this park that will soon be built as Riverfront Park. I hope that we will have a contest to name the park someday.

In my opinion, the park should be named something related to NWSW as a way to pay homage to the history of Wallace Street and our industrial legacy. Only time will tell what it will be called one day. At Riverfront Park, soil sampling is happening, and soon, engineers will be surveying the area to decide what will go where at this site.

Last year, Sterling approved a $5.6 million budget to rebuild Wallace Street, construct a plaza, a playground, a real splash pad (the kind like Dixon has), and all of the infrastructure these amenities will need to become usable. A ground-breaking ceremony will be held later this fall to commemorate the beginning of construction, which will take most of the 2025 construction season to complete. By late summer or early fall 2025, the park will officially open for business.

From there, the Riverfront Park Commission will seek sponsors to help provide additional amenities, such as a skating ribbon, a band shell and more. If your organization wishes to sponsor a memorial, benches or storyboards, or you have other ideas about how to make this park something that everyone wants to see and be a part of, talk with your alderman or contact city hall to start the conversation of what you can do for our Riverfront Park.

Next door to the park at the former National manufacturing site, Gorman & Company and our master developer, Mr. Ron Clewer, are working on putting all the pieces together to start the redevelopment of that property. To do that, they need to do what is called “capital stacking,” which is to find all the right agencies, grants, tax credits and state legislation and put that all together to begin moving bricks and mortar at the site.

Regarding state legislation, I spoke with state Rep. Brad Fritts of Dixon at a cookout at Oliver’s Corner Market in Dixon the other day, and he mentioned that he and state Rep. Maurice West of Rockford will be working together to get Sterling added to the River Edge Redevelopment Zone Program. This program helps revive and redevelop environmentally challenged properties adjacent to rivers in Illinois. It has been successful in seven communities that are now part of the program. The National and Lawrence properties certainly fit that bill.

Here’s hoping that two rising stars within their respective political parties, working together, will be able to make that happen. If these properties are added to the River Edge Redevelopment Zone program, that will open doors to funding resources that will help fund the redevelopment of these properties. It is good to see two state representatives reaching across the aisle to get things done, especially for us here in the Twin Cities and all Rock River communities from Rockford to Moline.

When we work together to improve things, we all benefit from that effort. Events such as the Touch a Truck event, concerts in the park, Cruise in Night, and more are examples of what happens when people work together. It makes for great summer fun and our communities a great place to live, work and play.

Enjoy summer; it only comes around once a year.

  • Jim Wise is a Sterling city alderman.
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