Freeport developer's plan to revitalize the downtown - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

Freeport developer's plan to revitalize the downtown

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To revive Freeport's downtown experts ask, what comes first: companies or clientele? One developer thinks he has the answer to breathe life into downtown.

Ryan Hughes has a plan. He used to sit on the Freeport Downtown Development Foundation board. Hughes says he would work to bring in new businesses and they would stay for a little bit but then close up.

"We decided that it would probably be better to take the reverse approach and put the people in the downtown, populate the sidewalks and then ask the businesses to come," says Ryan Hughes, Newport Group board member.

Hughes wants to get people living in the central city. He is currently working on turning the top two floors above the Health Source Building into lofts. He couldn't show us inside yet because of a privacy agreement. But he says this is not low-income housing they are targeting people who can pay between $700 to $1000 a month for rent.

"We've got to put young professionals in the financial demographic group that are going to support local businesses like some of the higher end restaurants and clothes stores and coffee shops," says Hughes.

The executive director of Freeport Downtown Development Foundation says the central city has more than 100 buildings that are more than a 100 years-old.

"First floors look great, buildings have businesses on the first floor but we would like second floor activity too," says Danielle Rodgers.

She says there's is a strong demand for downtown living. Apartments that are available have waiting lists. Rodgers say what they need now is more developers like Hughes.

"We maintaining the high ceilings that are inside, saving the old wood floors, high end kitchens with granite counter tops," says Hughes. "I feel this is an opportunity that has been lying dormant that is a perfect time in Freeport's history."

He plans to have four lofts finished by the end of the year. He expects to show the first one in late Spring.

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