ROCKFORD (WREX) — Gary Gorman remembers the April 10th, 2017 Rockford City Council meeting well.
"The first three votes were against us and I was sitting there just gripping the arms of my chair because we already owned the building," says Gorman. "We already had over $1 million invested."
Gorman was anticipating a vote on the Amerock Hotel project. Lucky for him and his firm, on the night of the vote the yes's just narrowly beat out the no's 7-6. Gorman says the project has been roughly 12 years in the making. On Wednesday, the hotel opened for a limited amount of guests during a soft open.
"We've done some thing like $1.3 billion worth of projects over the last 36 years and this one has been the longest to get done," says Gorman. "It’s been very complex from a political perspective from a funding perspective."
Gorman recalls the multiple trips he and then Mayor Larry Morrissey made to China to secure investors and the back and forth at city council for years. And while to took years to open, Gorman says all those hoops to jump through were well worth it.
Before the pandemic began he says the hotel had secured roughly $3.5 million in conference and meeting business. Business that's being deferred for now, but what he believes shows the potential of this space.
"There’s no way those people would’ve stayed in our building they would have ventured out and patronized other businesses restaurants in downtown."
"It will be a great boom for local businesses and for our entire downtown," says Mayor Tom McNamara. "To see that walk-ability, to see people out. It brings enthusiasm to any community."
McNamara says the project would have never come to fruition without the work done by the Friends of Ziock or the multiple councils that have seen it through. Not only is he excited on the impact it will have on downtown Rockford, but the influence he sees it potentially having down the South Main corridor.
"It's going to be the Embassy Suites on one end and the fastest growing cargo airport in the world on the other end on S. Main. It is really book-ended by two tremendous assets. It's incumbent on us as a city and other developers already chomping at the bit to invest there on S. Main."
Gorman says for now the hotel is only taking a small amount of guests during the soft open and will continue to gradually add more guests. He says the hotel is adhering to all the federal, state, and local guidelines to ensure safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. For now, the restaurant and bar are closed to the public.
Rockford Roasting Company has a planned expansion at the hotel that's expected to open by the end of the month.