A long-standing Rockford strip mall could get a whole new look. According to Winnebago County, it could be demolished. But the current owner says there is no agreement for that. Winnebago County agreed to pay to demo the Auburn Strip Mall. They passed the resolution in county board. The issue: The person they are going to give the money to does not own it and the current owner says he doesn't have any plans to knock it down.
The building at the corner of Auburn and Central Avenue was known for years for housing the old driver's license facility. But Winnebago County Chairman Scott Christiansen would like to see the far west side strip mall totally redone. He backed the county approving a grant for $150,000 to demolish the property.
"We've seen so much new development but we have not seen any, we've seen very little action in that part of town. And that building has been around a long time so that's going to come down, be demolished. And a new facility, a bigger facility put in its place," says Christiansen.
The money would go to Oliver Emerson. The issue: Emerson is not the owner of 3814, 3820 or 3824 Auburn Street, the addresses that make up the strip mall. Emerson is the person who came to the county and asked for money to help pay for the demolition.
"They brought us their paper work, their financial studies, their financial analysis and showed there was a gap there that they needed to close," says Christiansen.
But the owner is listed as Auburn Center, L.L.C. with William Pritz listed as the proprietor. Pritz would not go on camera but says he has no agreement with Emerson, the city or the county. The tenants in the building include a beauty supply store, Insurance King and a Family Dollar. Some of the people who frequent those businesses are worried.
"People don't have no car to go to the other Family Dollar. This is a nice Family Dollar to have in the community," says Jimmy Dotson, who shops at Family Dollar.
"They can stay because you have to wait to have six or seven months for it to rebuild and you have to commute to other places and stuff so I think you should keep it," says Al Davis, Family Dollar shopper.
13 News left a message for Oliver Emerson, but he has not returned our call. Christiansen says Emerson had an option on the building for the last year but it's up. He says Emerson is currently in negotiations with Pritz to buy the building. The City of Rockford is also working on redeveloping the building with Emerson.