Demolition on the iconic Clock Tower Resort begins Monday as developers look to raze the historic property.
After it was condemned under previous owners in 2017, it sold in May of that same year to a group of developers eying it to become a casino. But delays in getting a permit for demolition and a failure on lawmakers to pass a casino bill has delayed any kind of progress.
Last Wednesday, developers say the city granted a permit to tear down the structure.
"I am thrilled that the demolition of the former Clock Tower begins a new era and entrance for our city," Mayor Tom McNamara said in a news release sent by the developers. "It creates optimism that this location can become something very special."
The property was purchased in 1969 by Seth Atwood, an inventor, industrialist and businessman from Rockford. According to his 2010 obituary printed in the Chicago Tribune, he founded The Time Museum in 1971 at the resort to establish his massive clock collection. The museum was closed in March 1999, when United Realty Corp., a company owned by the Atwood family interests, announced its sale. According to a 2012 article by the Rockford Register Star, the collection sold for $6.8 million.
It fell under several owners following Atwood's sale. In 2016, Beltway Hospitality announced it would close the hotel to deal with needed-repairs. The property was cited with a number of code violations because of security, structural and electrical concerns. The hotel never re-opened, and in 2017 Beltway announced it would sell the property.
It's unclear what will become of the property. But the idea of a casino continues to be a long shot, as casino bills are floated in the statehouse year after year. In 2017, a gaming measure passed through the Senate, but failed to move forward in the House. Investors have also discussed the possibility for a new hotel, retail and restaurant space, or entertainment.
"Here at the city we're open doors," says Mayor McNamara. "We're ready to help them any way we can. If it's through an expedited permit process, if it's through potential incentives depending on the project, we are here open and ready to assist them."
McNamara says he's encouraged by the fact that local investors have taken interest in this space.
"I think having that local ownership is critical, having that local stake is critical."
Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO John Groh says the site wasn't living up to its potential in the final years.
"Over the past several years as the Clock Tower began to change and ownership wasn't reinvesting in the property those business meetings, those conferences, those trainings and seminars went to other markets or to other facilities here in the community. We do hope that gateway will be enhanced and redeveloped with in a really signature and way we can be proud of just like how for 50 years our community had been proud of the Clock Tower until recent years."