Related topics

Getting the pieces in Place: Developer, city seal deal to fill vacancy on riverfront land; hotel construction could begin by spring

December 29, 2018 GMT

ROCK FALLS – The most important ingredient in the Zesty Meatloaf LLC riverfront redevelopment project was crossed off the shopping list Friday.

Local developer Pete Harkness closed on the city’s sale of the RB&W property on East Second Street. The city received the $500,000 check and Harkness is the owner of the 5.6-acre area across the street from the Holiday Inn Express & Suites and the city’s RB&W District Park.

Harkness filed paperwork in June to form Zesty Meatloaf, the whimsically named limited liability company for the project. The City Council on Dec. 18 approved a redevelopment agreement for the $8 million project that had been amended just one day before the meeting.


The acquisition of the property was the first phase in the four-part process detailed in the agreement. Although the closing deadline wasn’t until March 1, Harkness wanted to seal the deal before the end of the year.

“With a new administration coming to Springfield, there are things for developers to consider, such as possible changes with prevailing wage and TIF districts,” City Administrator Robbin Blackert said.

Harkness will have a $1 million cap on reimbursable expenses for the hotel parcel through the city’s riverfront tax increment financing district. He also is eligible for incentives through the Whiteside/Carroll Enterprise Zone and the property’s location within a federal Opportunity Zone.

The next deadline for Harkness is March 29, the date by which the land is to be subdivided. The agreement started the subdivision process, setting up separate hotel and retail parcels, but it’s likely the retail side will be divided into smaller pieces.

If all goes as planned, work will begin this spring on another hotel, the cornerstone of this project. Harkness has been negotiating with My Place Hotels, a relatively new chain based in Aberdeen, South Dakota. The 46-unit hotel would have a completion deadline of March 31, 2020. The city has granted a permit for some exploratory site work to be done.

Although some might question the need for another hotel, the city wants to take full advantage of its proximity to the interstate.

“The Holiday Inn is doing very well, and the Country Inn & Suites is planning renovations because there is a need for quality lodging facilities,” said Gary Camarano, Whiteside County economic development director.

The interstate has allowed the city to corner the hospitality market in Whiteside County. The hotel/motel tax revenues, which must be used for tourism, fuel its efforts to become a destination point for travelers.


In addition to generating tax revenues and creating jobs, hotels generate what is referred to as collateral economic impact. Lodging keeps people in a town for an extended period of time, in turn generating revenues for retailers, restaurants, service stations and tourist stops. That collateral impact makes hotels a development centerpiece that often draws retailers and eateries to town.

“The hotels provide a captive crowd that needs places to eat and shop,” Camarano said. “It also fits in with a lot of the little things we’re doing to attract tourists, like the Northwest Illinois Film Office.”

Another piece of the captive crowd theme is a banquet facility that will be within walking distance of the hotels. Owner Larry McCormick bought the Rock River Tool and Die building at 205 E. Third St. for that purpose. Reservations are being taken for special events there in anticipating of it being open by June.