Fired Up: Residents sound off about public housing proposal
ROCKFORD (WREX) -
Hundreds of angry east side residents were not having it when a developer tried to explain why it wants to move into their neighborhood. They were shouting at city leaders.
If all goes as planned, Fairgrounds Valley would be torn down and the public housing complex would be rebuilt, partly in their backyards. They're doing everything they can to stop if from happening.
Things got heated quick in the Gregory Elementary School gym. The temperature in the room matched the tempers as Gorman and Company tried to explain why it wants to build a 65-unit public housing complex.
"Buy our houses for $105,000 a piece and you'll have units already built. I'll leave. I will leave," shouted one resident.
The developers say that's not what they want. They're asking residents to open their minds to the possibilities of what the development could be.
"This is not public housing. This is different," said a Gorman representative to the crowd.
The company stressed it is building the New Town Development to change the standard of affordable housing. The Rockford Housing Authority is behind the project, which would require the agency to sell the land to Gorman. It sits right off E. State Street not far from Rockford University and OSF St. Anthony Medical Center.
Gorman hosted the Thursday night meeting. Some city staffers were there for support and to listen in. Mayor Larry Morrissey spoke to the crowd a few times when things got heated.
"You know, people have feelings, there is a lot of fear that was represented in this room," said Morrissey at the conclusion of the meeting. "I think it's very natural that that fear is going to come out in a lot of the comments that you heard tonight. We know we have an obligation to do more than just maintain the status quo for the individuals that live in public housing today."
Despite the vocal opposition at the meeting, Gorman's spokesman said they do not have a change of heart about the development.
"I think we have to stand for what's right and we have to stand for the inequalities of people and that's what we intend to do," said the spokesman.
But the opposition made it clear it is not going to go away without a fight.
"That's what you're bringing in here, nothing but drugs," said one woman who's lived in the neighborhood for decades. "Why don't the mayor put them in their neighborhood."
Gorman officially submitted its application for the project before the meeting. Gorman plans to develop and manage the property.
City leaders plan to host the public in a larger venue when the Zoning Board meets July 21. A location has not been announced for the meeting yet.