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City of Rockford Master Plan 2020 - Rockford Michigan


  • pg 1
									 City of Rockford
Master Plan 2020
            June 2002
           City of Rockford

                              Table of Contents

Chapter 1 – Introduction                                1

Chapter 2 – Profile
Historical Background                                   3
Soils and Terrain                                       4
Population                                              4
Age                                                     4
Race & Ethnicity                                        5
Education                                               5
Housing                                                 5
Employment                                              6
Community Patterns                                      7
Existing Land Use                                       7
Natural Features                                        11
Transportation                                          11
Historical Features                                     11
Neighborhood Conditions                                 12

Chapter 3 – Planning Issues
Small Town Charm                                        18
Neighborhood Integrity                                  19
Commercial Opportunities                                19
External Influences                                     19
Future City Growth                                      20
Physical Conditions                                     21
Redevelopment Opportunities                             21

Chapter 4 – Vision and Goals
Community                                               23
Central Business District                               23
Housing                                                 24
Business/Employment                                     24
Natural Features                                        24
Parks & Recreation                                      25
Transportation                                          25

TABLE OF CONTENTS                    i            MASTER PLAN 2020
           City of Rockford

Chapter 5 – Rockford’s Future
Land Use                                       26
Residential Capacity                           33
Residential Character                          33
Transportation                                 37

Chapter 6 – Implementing the Plan
Roles & Responsibilities                       40
Things to Remember                             40


TABLE OF CONTENTS                   ii   MASTER PLAN 2020
            City of Rockford

CHAPTER 1 - INTRODUCTION                          Future Land Use Map, a graphic
                                                  representation of the vision, goals,
Rockford has long been considered one of          policies, and recommendations contained
the metro area’s most desirable small             in the text. Together the text and maps
towns, a place reminiscent of Norman              constitute the long-range Master Plan for
Rockwell’s vision of small town America.          Rockford.
Its large homes fronting tree-lined streets
surround a bustling downtown business             Why does Rockford need a plan and
district. Residents enjoy abundant                what will the Master Plan do?
recreational opportunities, including the
unique White Pine Trail and the Rogue             The Master Plan is the conceptual
River. Employment is available at                 foundation of the City’s land use policies
numerous companies, large and small,              and provides the basis for the City’s
including Wolverine Worldwide, an                 zoning regulations. Michigan law
international giant within its industry.          requires that a Zoning Ordinance be based
                                                  on a well conceived Master Plan. The
This Master Plan is intended to provide a         Planning Commission, City Council, and
common vision to guide the City’s actions         Zoning Board of Appeals can use the Plan
and policies toward a future which                for guidance when land use issues appear
maintains the strengths and addresses the         before them. This includes adoption of
short-comings of a growing community.             zoning amendments, review of land use
The Plan is the product of many long              applications, and requests for variances
hours of work by the Planning                     from the requirements of the Zoning
Commission and City staff with input              Ordinance. Applicants seeking project
from the City Council, the community-at-          approvals will also find the Master Plan to
large, and even the school children.              be a valuable tool for understanding the
                                                  City’s long-term goals. In addition, the
What is a Master Plan?                            Plan provides direction for public
                                                  improvements such as roads, parks, and
A Master Plan is a document authored by           similar facilities.
the Planning Commission to guide the
future growth and development of the              The Planning Process
community. Furthermore, it can be
utilized to preserve and enhance those            This document was produced through the
qualities of the community that                   combined efforts of many individuals and
residents consider important. The City of         groups within the community, coming
Rockford Master Plan examines a wide              together at various times to voice their
range of community development issues             ideas, hopes, and concerns for the future
including population growth, housing,             of the City.
natural resource protection,
transportation, and land use. The                 While the Planning Commission took the
implications of each are analyzed and             lead in formulating the Plan, they were
translated into a series of issues, goals,        facilitators and catalysts for a much
and recommendations for the City. An              broader City-wide undertaking. In
important part of the document is the             addition to the regular active discussions

CHAPTER 1 – INTRODUCTION                      1                             MASTER PLAN 2020
            City of Rockford

by the Planning Commission, several                dislikes, identifying those things that
other steps were designed to tap the               should be preserved and those that should
broader resources of various segments of           be changed.
the community.
                                                   Working in small groups the students
First, one-on-one interviews were                  were asked to prepare master plan maps
conducted with a number of individuals –           illustrating their vision for the City. With
business owners, corporate executives,             the assistance of the Mayor, City Council
residents, school district officials, staff,       members, City staff, and Planning
and others.                                        Commission members, students used their
                                                   imaginations and artistic abilities to
Next, an effort at wider “targeted”                construct the Rockford of the Future,
participation was undertaken with a focus          based on the lessons learned in the
group that was convened on two separate            program. Public facilities, such as parks
occasions. This group of about 40 persons          and trails, were placed throughout the
represented a wide range of perspectives           community, along with business and
and contributed significantly to the Plan’s        industrial districts, and a variety of
direction. During these sessions, small            residential locations. Other amenities
groups discussed the City’s opportunities          deemed beneficial to the overall livability
and needs and eventually translated those          of the City were also added.
thoughts into goals and actions for the
future. Planning Commissioners and                 The final Kidspeak session included a
other City officials observed while the            presentation of the nine versions of the
small groups debated and set priorities.           “Laphamville of the Future” plans to the
                                                   Rockford City Council, bringing together
A third, and very unique, aspect of the            the original community of 1846 and the
community’s involvement was an effort              Rockford of the Future. The students also
dubbed “Kidspeak” in which fifth graders           wrote essays to explain in narrative form
from Parkside Elementary School were               how their plans were developed. The
asked to formulate their vision of                 drawings and narratives generated by the
Rockford. The Kidspeak program proved              students are included in the Appendix to
to be both an enjoyable and insightful part        illustrate the thought and creativity that
of the Master Plan process for students            came from their participation.
and the City, alike.

Conducted over several days, the program
began with an introduction to the basic
concepts of planning and zoning and how
they affect the community. A bus tour
was organized to familiarize students with
the City and its character including
important landmarks, public service
facilities, parks, natural features and the
various land uses. Students were asked to
make observations about their likes and

CHAPTER 1 – INTRODUCTION                       2                             MASTER PLAN 2020
            City of Rockford

CHAPTER 2 - PROFILE                                 community, and railroad line ensured that
                                                    the village would be rebuilt. With a
Historical Background                               decline in lumbering, Rockford needed
                                                    new industry, and the Hirth-Krause
Located along the Rogue River and just a            Company’s decision to build a shoe
short drive north of the Grand Rapids               factory provided it. Using the Rogue as a
metropolitan area is the community of               source of power, the Hirth and Krause
Rockford. In 1842 Marlin Hunter came                families built their factory in 1903 and a
to the area looking for lumber, and                 tannery in 1909. From 1903 to the
wintered in a cabin near the Rogue River.           present, the company, which adopted the
The following spring he was joined by his           trademark “Wolverine”, has been a
brother William, who hoped to dam the               cornerstone in Rockford’s growth.
river and build a water-powered sawmill.
By 1845, five families had settled in               Rockford became a home rule city in 1935
“Laphamville” and a road was cut                    with its own charter, city council, and
through. Just 20 years later, the tiny              manager. Since then the City has
village contained enough new buildings to           continued to grow, due in part to the
require official platting. The village was          steady expansion of Wolverine World
platted and the tradition of planting trees         Wide, Inc., the small town lure of
along all the streets was instituted—a              Rockford, and the City’s proximity to the
practice that continues today. At that              Grand Rapids metro job market.
time the name of the village changed from
Laphamville to its current name,                    Today, Rockford’s 2.6 square miles
Rockford.                                           contain a rich mix of quality residential
                                                    neighborhoods and its location near the
                                                    U.S. 131 freeway makes it readily
                                                    accessible to Grand Rapids area
                                                    employment centers. In addition, it is
                                                    home to the company that evolved from
                                                    the humble Hirth-Krause Company into a
                                                    world leader in the shoe industry,
                                                    Wolverine World Wide, employing over
                                                    1,500 people locally.

                                                    Rockford possesses a thriving downtown
                                                    that has a strong local and tourist market.
                                                    In recent years, there has been a growing
                                                    interest in the revitalization of the
                                                    downtown business district and the City’s
                                                    other commercial core at Ten Mile Road
By the 1870’s, the once abundant virgin             and Wolverine Boulevard. Such efforts,
pine forests were almost exhausted and a            coupled with steady business and
series of devastating fires and floods in the       industrial growth, and one of the most
late 1800’s nearly leveled Rockford. But            respected school districts in the nation,
its water power, large farming

CHAPTER 2 - PROFILE                             3                             MASTER PLAN 2020
             City of Rockford

have continued to lure new residents to           time period, than the overall population of
the community.                                    Kent County.

Soils and Terrain
                                                                                                                                     % Chg
                                                   Govt. Unit            1970            1980            1990        2000
                                                                                                                                     ‘90 to ‘00
Its location on the bank of the Rogue
River, results in much of the City being           Rockford              2428            3324            3750        4626            23.4
located on nearly level and relatively low
                                                   Cdr. Spr.             1807            2615            2600        3112            19.7
lands, especially on the east side of the
river. Newly developing areas west of the          Grnville              7493            8019            8101        7935            - 2.0

river, however, sit on steep banks and             Algoma                3088            4411            5496        7596            38.2
more undulating topography. Likewise,              Courtland             2196            3272            3950        5817            47.3
on the other side of the City, east of
                                                   Plainfield            16,935          20,611          24,946      30,195          21.0
Wolverine Boulevard, the land rises
sharply. In general, soils on the City’s           Kent Co.              411,044         444,506         500,631     574,335         14.7

east side are excessively to well drained
with sandy and loamy materials.                   Age
However, on the west side, soils tend to be
heavier, poorly drained clay. The soils of        Kent County and Rockford share a similar
Rockford and its surroundings were                age composition of their population.
created during the last glacial period and        However, one important difference is the
the result was a variety of soil types            percentage of residents under 18 years old.
differing in texture, drainage, and slope.
                                                  According to the 2000 Census, one-third
Population                                        (33.9 %) of all residents in the City (1,566)
                                                  are under the age of 18. This has obvious
Since the 1970’s, the City of Rockford has        implications for planning public facilities
experienced a steady increase in                  such as schools and parks.
population consistent with the overall
population explosion of the Grand Rapids          The table below illustrates the 2000 age
metropolitan area. Pre-1970’s, the City           distribution of the City of Rockford
was a small community of approximately            compared with that of Kent County and
2,000 residents and is now home to 4,626          the State of Michigan.
people. Residential growth has not been
the only change within the City limits;                                Age Distribution Comparison
industrial opportunities have grown over
time and now are providing a steady                                               12.3
source of employment, as well as a strong               % 65 +                   10.8
                                                                                10.9                               43.6
tax base.                                             % 25-44                                                              50.1
                                                      % 18-24                   10.5
As the accompanying chart indicates, the           % Under 18
population of Rockford has nearly
                                                                 0.0      10.0         20.0       30.0     40.0      50.0         60.0
doubled during the past 30 years. The
City has grown at a faster rate over the                                    Source: 2000 U.S.
same                                                            City of Rockford          Kent County           State of Michigan

CHAPTER 2 - PROFILE                           4                                                      MASTER PLAN 2020
            City of Rockford

The median age of 31.5 years old, as               over 200 additional K-5 students has also
reported in the 2000 Census, is lower than         been recorded. This type of growth has
either the State of Michigan (35.5) or Kent        forced the Rockford Public Schools to
County (32.5).                                     adjust their building needs to
                                                   accommodate the growing student body.
Race & Ethnicity                                   For the school year 2001-2002, the school
                                                   district had an elementary population
Racial diversity, while somewhat greater           (PPI through 5th grade) that made up
than reported in the 1990 Census, remains          44.7% of the overall student body and the
predominantly white. An estimated                  high school (grades 9 through 12)
96.2% of the City’s population, according          accounted for an additional 31.7%.
to the 2000 Census, was classified as                Rockford Public Schools Enrollment Change
white. The mix of other races, reported
by the Census is comprised of: Hispanic               School                                Change
(1.5%), Asian (.9%), Black (.6%),                                   Enrollment
                                                       Year                             #             %
American Indian (.4 %), and other (.4%).              1991-92          5,654
                                                      1992-93          5,842           188          3.3
Education                                             1993-94          5,997           155          2.6
                                                      1994-95          6,259           262          4.4
                                                      1995-96          6,470           211          3.4
The entire City is within the Rockford                1996-97          6,802           332          5.1
School District though the district                   1997-98          7,014           212          3.1
boundaries extend well beyond the City                1998-99          7,256           242          3.5
limits. The Middle School, the school                 1999-00          7,395           139          1.9
district administration offices, and two              2000-01          7,559           164          2.2
elementary schools are located within the             2001-02          7,572            13          0.2
City. A private school and three pre-                  Total                          1,918         33.9
                                                     Enrollment is grand total including Special Education and
schools are also located inside the City.            Alternative Ed.

Enrollment in the Rockford Public                  City residents exhibit a high level of
Schools has been consistently growing for          educational attainment as 89.5% have a
many years. As the chart indicates, the            high school diploma or higher educational
school district has witnessed an average           level compared to 84.6% for Kent County.
increase of 192 students per year over the         Nearly 30% (27.9) of the City’s population
last eleven years. In the school year 1991-        has a bachelor’s degree or higher,
1992, the total school population was              compared with 25.8% for Kent County.
5,654 while that number grew to 7,572
students for the academic year 2001-2002,          Housing
an increase of more than one-third of the
91-92 enrollment.                                  The housing stock in the City of Rockford
                                                   is varied in both style and age of
In the last five years, the majority of this       structures. The pattern of development is
increase has occurred in the high school.          almost visible from the varying styles of
Over 500 additional students have been             homes and their location within the city.
counted in the high school since the 96-97         The City’s oldest homes are found,
academic year. A noticeable increase of            predictably, at the very center near

CHAPTER 2 - PROFILE                            5                                   MASTER PLAN 2020
            City of Rockford

downtown. The housing stock gets                    large lots (10,000 to 15,000 sq.ft.) and cul
progressively newer as development                  de sac streets. This represents a departure
moves outward from the City center.                 from the traditional neighborhood pattern
                                                    found throughout the core City.
Two of every three dwellings (66.3%)
within the City are owner-occupied,                 Employment
according to the 2000 census. This
number represents an increase in home               Rockford is home to a wide array of
ownership since 1990 when                           employers, offering job opportunities to
approximately 60% of the households                 the residents of the City and surrounding
were owner-occupied. Renter-occupied                areas. Of the top ten employers within the
dwellings include both traditional                  City limits, seven are product-related
“apartments” and homes being rented or              industries. Wolverine World Wide leads
leased, while owner-occupied units are              the list of employers with a local work
both homes and condominiums occupied                force of approximately 1,500.
by the owner/purchaser.
                                                                  Top Ten Employers
This ratio of owner- to renter-occupied
dwellings is fairly typical of small cities,                        City of Rockford
due in part to the availability of large, old
                                                        Employer           Number of        Product/
homes and the aging of the population,                                     Employees         Service
along with a reduction in family size. The          Wolverine World         1,535           Product
following table provides a comparison of            Wide
the owner/renter status among other                 Grand Rapids               425          Product
comparable cities.                                  Controls Inc.
                                                    Byrne Electrical           250          Product
City                  % Owner   % Renter            Specialist
                                                    Rockford Public            250*          Service
Portland                74.9      25.1
Grand Haven             67.6      32.4              D & W Food                 210           Service
Belding                 66.4      33.6              Center
Rockford                66.3      33.7              ITW B & L Plastics         150          Product
Greenville              61.6      38.4              Kalfact Plastics           150          Product
Ionia                   60.8      39.2
                                                    Champion Health            112          Service
                                                    Aftech Inc.                75           Product
Based on the visual survey conducted for            Alloy Exchange             60           Product
this Plan and input provided throughout             Inc.
the course of the planning process, the             *work within city limits
majority of the new residential
development has occurred at the periphery           Institutional and retail employers also
of the City. The Rockford Highlands                 contribute significant job opportunities.
project, located west of the Rogue River,           Rockford Public Schools employs 250
is an example of a new residential                  people within the City limits. The D&W
development that has introduced typically           Food Center employs around 210 persons
suburban style housing with relatively              at its store on the corner of 10 Mile and
                                                    Wolverine Boulevard. The City’s top ten

CHAPTER 2 - PROFILE                             6                                     MASTER PLAN 2020
            City of Rockford

employers provide over 3,200 job                         Rockford is conveniently positioned in
opportunities within the City of Rockford.               relation to a wide array of employment
                                                         opportunities. Major transportation
Considering Rockford’s population is less                corridors, Wolverine Boulevard/
than 5,000, the availability of over 3,000               Northland Drive and the US-131 freeway,
jobs from the top 10 employers results in a              offer direct north/south access into the
very low unemployment rate. According                    metro area. Commuting time reported in
to Michigan Office of Career                             the 2000 Census was comparable to,
Development, the City’s unemployment                     though slightly less than, that of 1990 (21
rate was consistently below 2% for the last              minutes vs. 21.8 minutes, respectively).
half of the decade of the 90’s and has
remained at that level into the new                      According to the 2000 Census commuting
century. This compares to a statewide                    pattern data 85.1% of residents drove
unemployment level for the same period                   alone to work, compared with 78.9% in
which ranged from a low of 3.6% to 4.9%.                 1990. The mode of transportation used
                                                         to get to work is illustrated in the chart
Rockford residents are employed in a                     below.
diverse range of occupations. The two
largest employment sectors are                                     Mode of Commuting
“management, professional, and related”
and “sales and office.” The following
chart shows the employment distribution
by occupation.



  35.2                                        26.7

                                                                Drove alone         Car-pooled
                                                                Walked              Other means
                                                                Work at home

     Management, professional & related
                                                         Existing Land Use
     Sales & office
     Construction, extraction & maintenance
                                                         Most of Rockford’s developable land is
     Production, transportation & material moving
                                                         developed. While there are isolated
                                                         parcels scattered throughout the City,
                                                         there are few large blocks of land that
Commuting Patterns                                       have yet to be developed.

Located on the northern edge of                          In 2001 the City of Rockford and Algoma
metropolitan Grand Rapids, the City of                   Township entered into an agreement
                                                         whereby approximately 170 acres of

CHAPTER 2 - PROFILE                                  7                             MASTER PLAN 2020
                 City of Rockford

vacant, rolling land along Rockford’s west                   The City’s downtown, also east of the
border, north of 10 Mile Road, was                           river, is located just north of the main
transferred from the Township to the City                    east/west transportation corridor (10 Mile
under a cooperative, tax sharing                             Road/Division Street). Some older
arrangement.                                                 homes adjacent to the commercial core
                                                             and fronting on heavily traveled streets,
Rockford is divided by the Rogue River.                      such as Division Street and Monroe
The east side contains the original city                     Street, have experienced conversion to
settlement and older homes as well as all                    non-residential uses, primarily offices.
of the commerce and industry.                                However, despite having business and
Residential development on the east side                     residential uses coexist side by side, the
of the river is predominantly single family,                 residential character of these areas
owner-occupied homes, though some two-                       remains strong.
family conversions and multi-family
complexes have occurred. Time periods
of construction, architectural details on
homes, and development layouts vary
throughout this area of the City, providing
clues to the time period when the
neighborhood was developed.

Building Permits in the City of Rockford

                         Total No.         Total No.
               Total No.
                         of Res.           of Comm.
    Year        of Bldg.
                         Bldg.             Bldg.
                         Permits *         Permits
    2000          105        34
    1999          114        37                  7
    1998           99        31                  7           The homes around the downtown area are
    1997           90        26                  3           the oldest and exhibit two stories, wood
    1996           81        70                  4           siding, ornate, and decorative detailing.
    1995           85        61                  4           The neighborhoods on the south side of
    1994           65        31                  1           Division Street have similar features of
    1993           63        23                  4           those surrounding downtown but appear
    1992           57                                        to have a slightly newer look and
    1991           11
    1990           12
                                                             detailing. Moving north and south, away
* BREAKDOWN EXCLUDES: Residential remodel,                   from the downtown, the house styles
commercial remodel, signs,                                   change and exhibit the more
breezeways, single wide mobile homes, attached garages
and detached garages.                                        contemporary styling of the late 1960’s or
However, these items are reflected in the overall # of       1970’s when single story, brick homes,
building permits issued.
                                                             with attached garages, were popular.

CHAPTER 2 - PROFILE                                      8                            MASTER PLAN 2020
              City of Rockford
Development on the west side of the river                 side. Several open sites remain for future
is newer and contains varying residential                 industrial development, as well as some
options -- apartments, condominiums,                      limited commercial development.
large lot single-family home sites, and                   However, while zoned industrial, much of
many small lot home sites. All have been                  the remaining vacant land on the east side
built over different periods of time,                     of Wolverine Blvd./Northland Drive in
resulting in a variety of building styles and             the northeast section of the City is owned
sizes.                                                    and held by Wolverine World Wide.

Business activity in Rockford has not been
confined to the downtown area. Larger
commercial enterprises requiring more
space have established a broader
community commercial node at 10 Mile
     Land Use                Acres          % of
Single & two                675.81          36.7
family residential

Multi family                 74.70            4.0
Commercial                   87.11            4.7
Industrial                  189.43           10.3
Public                      137.36            7.5
Water                        32.41            1.8
Vacant                      641.17*          35.0
Total                      1837.99            100
Road and Wolverine Boulevard. A large
grocery store, fast food restaurants, small
retail shops, health/fitness center, and
financial and medical offices are clustered
at this busy intersection.
* Total includes land recently transferred into the
City from Algoma Township (175.11 acres).

North of 11 Mile Road, the land use is
predominately industrial. Two separate
industrial parks are located between the
Rogue River on the west and Wolverine
Blvd./Northland Drive on the eastern

CHAPTER 2 - PROFILE                                   9                            MASTER PLAN 2020
            City of Rockford

Natural Features                                   with single-family homes and commercial
                                                   uses that also front the corridor. Most
Numerous natural features make                     have separate driveways and minimal
Rockford an aesthetically pleasing place to        setbacks, creating frequent traffic conflicts.
live, work, and relax. Woods, water, and           In addition, the street is lined with large,
steep bluffs all offer interest.                   stately trees which inhibit any likelihood
                                                   of it being widened.

                                                   Ten Mile Road west of the City to the
                                                   U.S. 131 interchange is also severely
                                                   burdened at peak hours. A joint planning
                                                   effort with Rockford, Algoma Township,
                                                   and Plainfield Township has been
                                                   undertaken to examine land use, access
                                                   management, and street improvements
                                                   along this street.

                                                   Another transportation issue stems from
                                                   the proximity of Wolverine Worldwide’s
                                                   production facilities to the north edge of
The City’s most prominent natural feature          Rockford’s downtown business district.
is the Rogue River that flows from north           The limited routes to and from the
to south and bisects the City. It is fed by        Wolverine facilities require truck traffic, in
several smaller but important tributaries:         particular, to make its way past or through
Shaw, Rum, and Blakeslee Creeks.                   residential areas.
Recognizing the river’s value to the
community, steps have been taken by the            Historical Features
City to ensure access to the Rogue by
obtaining an easement along the Rogue              Rockford’s many historical resources
River’s west side from Bridge Street up to         represent a cultural and physical link to
12 Mile Road. Careful attention has been           the City’s rich historical past. While some
paid to maintaining the high quality,              of these structures still maintain the same
natural vegetation to provide a meaningful         uses for which they were originally built,
experience for the visitor.                        some have been renovated for other uses.


North/south access to and from Rockford
is reasonably good via the U.S.131
expressway and Wolverine
Blvd./Northland Drive. However, the
limited access east and west places large
volumes of traffic on 10 Mile
Road/Division Street through the center
of the City. This road is partially lined

CHAPTER 2 - PROFILE                           11                              MASTER PLAN 2020
            City of Rockford

The Hessler Opera House (built 1896-                 Neighborhood Conditions
1900) is a prime example of a past use that
no longer exists, but the building has been          As a part of the Master Plan, a
adapted to other uses. Other significant             neighborhood conditions assessment was
historical structures such as the Del Tower          prepared to get a better grasp on the
House (the first electric house in                   current conditions of the housing stock in
Rockford) and the Smith Lapham Home                  Rockford. The assessment looked at
(home of Rockford’s founding father, built           several factors related to the age of the
in 1871) help provide a historical timeline          structures, physical condition, property
through the different eras of Rockford’s             maintenance, and the entire block for
past.                                                signs of distress, safety issues, proper
                                                     lighting, and parking. General
        Historical Resources                         assessments were made on a block wide
                                                     level to avoid isolating individual houses.
While the City does contain a number of
historic treasures, they tend to be scattered        Overall, property maintenance and
throughout the City’s east side rather than          neighborhood conditions are very good
being concentrated in a cohesive district.           throughout the City. Most blocks are well
                                                     maintained. Structural, property, and
                                                     safety issues are mostly non-existent. A
                                                     few areas experiencing traffic concerns
                                                     related to speed, through traffic or
                                                     pedestrian crossing safety, where traffic-
                                                     calming measures may offer relief and
                                                     should be examined.

                                                     The older section of the City enjoys a level
                                                     of infrastructure that newer sections
                                                     typically do not have. The core City has a
                                                     grid patterned street network with a
                                                     traditional raised curb and gutter design.
                                                     However, the City’s departure from the
                                                     traditional curb and gutter toward a rolled
                                                     curb for a brief period has altered the
                                                     appearance of some of the City’s more
                                                     recent developments. The neat and clean
                                                     appearance of the distinct curb edge
                                                     defining the boundary between the road
                                                     and the property is lost in these locations
                                                     to a vague and less defined street edge.

CHAPTER 2 - PROFILE                             12                             MASTER PLAN 2020
            City of Rockford

                                                  sidewalks and gutters are in need of
                                                  repair, missing pieces of siding, peeling
                                                  paint, and broken porches all indicate
                                                  signs of neglect. This area represents the
                                                  most vulnerable section of Rockford.

                                                  Another section of central Rockford in
                                                  need of attention is the small enclave
                                                  north of the community ball fields, on the
                                                  south side of Lewis Street and west of
                                                  Northland Drive. The twenty or so
                                                  homes in this area are in need of some
                                                  maintenance and repairs. Factors that
                                                  may have resulted in the area’s downward
                                                  turn would likely include the small
                                                  Wolverine plant to the east, commercial
                                                  businesses on Northland Drive as well as
In central Rockford, property                     the long hours maintained by the
maintenance is generally good. Here               community ball fields and soccer
much of the housing is a part of the              complex. For a long time, most of the
‘original City’ and has been revived to           Rockford High School athletic teams
reflect its past heritage. Most of these          played at this complex, as well.
homes have been restored to modern
standards while embracing the roots of the        For the most part, Rockford’s perimeter
past.                                             development is considerably newer than
                                                       central Rockford. Therefore, much of
                                                       the housing is in relatively better
                                                       condition. A couple of the
                                                       neighborhoods are isolated from the
                                                       surrounding areas by physical barriers
                                                       or more intense uses. In time, these
                                                       neighborhoods may be more
                                                       susceptible to deterioration. Already
                                                       some areas, primarily those along the
                                                       western banks of the Rogue River and
                                                       further north along Summit Avenue,
                                                       show some signs of deterioration.
                                                       Many of these homes are forty to fifty
                                                       years old and have only recently
The neighborhood which lines North                started to see some improvements.
Main Street, north and east of the
Wolverine Leather Plant in downtown               The following pages summarize the
has shown signs of deterioration. A               relative neighborhood conditions of the
general lack of maintenance and upkeep            City’s residential areas.
has been the main culprit. Crumbling

CHAPTER 2 - PROFILE                          13                             MASTER PLAN 2020
            City of Rockford

Well Maintained - these areas were                   Physical condition (peeling paint, torn
consistently above the 75% range when                screens, missing shingles, structural
analyzing a block by block assessment of             sagging, broken windows, cracked
the physical structure, yard maintenance,            driveways, etc.)
public infrastructure (sidewalks, curb and           Street infrastructure maintenance
gutter, and roadways) and overall block              Yard maintenance issues
appearance. More than three quarters of              Pedestrian safety issues
the home sites had to meet or exceed the             Parking related issues
criteria stated above to qualify for this            Neighborhood cleanliness
category. Structure age influenced this
rating indirectly, due to the obvious             Neighborhood 1 - the “downtown”
relationship between age of the                   neighborhood corresponds with the
development and need for maintenance.             original City boundary and includes a grid
                                                  street pattern and many turn-of-the-
Standard - these areas were consistently          century houses that have been
within the range of 60-75% of acceptable          meticulously maintained over time.
home sites for the criteria used in this          Housing closest to the downtown
analysis. Much of Rockford falls into this        commercial district tends to date from the
category. Due to the age of many of the           1930’s and earlier. “Newer” housing,
City’s neighborhoods, maintenance needs           constructed during the middle decades of
to remain a high priority. The mature             the 20th century, is located around the
neighborhoods, in particular, should be           perimeter of the neighborhood. The
carefully monitored to detect signs of            older, original housing tends to be two
deterioration or neglect in their early           stories with covered front porches,
stages.                                           typically has ornamentation detailing on
                                                  the exterior, and usually doesn’t have
Needs Attention - these areas of Rockford         garages. Newer housing is often single
had a range of quality home sites lower           level, with less square footage. Most of
than 60% for the neighborhood. These              these homes have little, if any,
locations show more than isolated signs of        ornamentation detailing on the exterior,
neglect and are the areas of greatest             but garages are more prevalent than on
concern. Inattention to yard upkeep               the older properties.
and/or routine building maintenance are
often common in these locations. Land             Obviously, not all properties are in
use conflicts may contribute to the               immaculate shape. There are a handful of
conditions in some cases, while others            homes that are in disrepair and are in
may be the result of general neighborhood         need of some physical reconditioning.
apathy.                                           Some need just cosmetic repairs, whether
                                                  some new paint, repair of crumbling steps,
Criteria:                                         or maintenance of the yard.

   Housing type                                   Neighborhood 2 - the northern extension
   Time period structures were built (per         of the “original” City grid has grown older
   block)                                         in its physical appearance and some of its

CHAPTER 2 - PROFILE                          14                            MASTER PLAN 2020
            City of Rockford

structures are showing signs of age and            Neighborhood 4
neglect.                                              Older homes typically found at
                                                      northern end while southern end of
This neighborhood appears to have been                neighborhood is homes built in the
split as indicated by the building styles             middle to late decades of the 20th
and development of the school and                     century
athletic complexes in its midst. While                Older homes are larger sq. ft. on
these two sections are physically                     smallest lots; newer homes are on
separated, they are similar in                        larger lots and typically smaller houses
characteristics and styles, and therefore,            Some improvements needed on
considered to be one neighborhood.                    sidewalks and curb and gutter

Again, as in neighborhood #1, the age of           Neighborhood 5
the buildings varies as some remain from              Neighborhood built in the 1960’s or
the turn-of-the-century, while newer                  1970’s
structures have replaced those no longer              A couple of home styles repeated
around. Property maintenance and                      throughout the area
physical conditions are not consistent with           Average sized houses on smallish
many other parts of the City. Some                    sized lots
contributing factors might include the                Active group socializing together
location of the Tanning Factory                       frequently
surrounded by residential homes, the                  Infrastructure is adequate and not in
conversion of homes to non-residential                need of repair
uses, parking lots with little or no
screening to mitigate their impact on              Neighborhood 6
adjacent properties, other non-commercial             Areas of declining housing on both
activities adjacent to homes, and                     sides of Spring Street and Bridge Street
community athletic facilities that used to            Little or no sidewalks in this section of
serve the high school athletic exclusively            the City
but now are used with less frequency.                 Curb and gutter limited to the main
Properties in this neighborhood were seen             roads
with trash and litter on the ground. City             Sections of neighborhood have quality
infrastructure is currently adequate, with            houses and properties
the sidewalks and curb and gutter needing             Most properties are large in acreage
to be addressed in the near future.
                                                   Neighborhood 7
Neighborhood 3                                        Small lot, smallish houses
   Overall quality of neighborhood is                 Infrastructure is in good shape
   good                                               Built in the 1960’s and 70’s
   Smaller homes than previous                        Similar housing, in good shape
   neighborhoods                                      Street layout is curvilinear with mini
   Infrastructure quality is good                     cul-de-sacs
   Property maintenance is above

CHAPTER 2 - PROFILE                           15                             MASTER PLAN 2020
            City of Rockford

Neighborhood 8                                      Neighborhood 13
   Larger lots, with 1960’s 1970’s                     Modest homes on small lots
   housing styles                                      Infrastructure is in good condition
   Wide street rights-of-way                           (rolled curbs)
   Feel of spreading out/spaciousness
   Infrastructure is in good shape                  Neighborhood 14
                                                       Large lot residential development
Neighborhood 9                                         New homes (1990’s and newer)
   Collection of two different                         New infrastructure (rolled curbs)
   developments (one from the 1960-70’s
   and one from the 1990’s)                         Neighborhood 15
   Similar site layouts, size of structures,           Newer residential development (1980’s
   and configurations                                  and 1990’s)
   Streets and sidewalks are in good                   Good size houses on smallish lots
   condition                                           One and one-half acre commons
   Rolled curbs with gutters
                                                    Neighborhood 16
Neighborhood 10                                        New single family residential
   Private, condominium development                    development in progress (2000 and
   High density of structures with a                   later)
    common open area                                   When completed, it will have new
   On a bluff overlooking single family                infrastructure
    residential below                                  Isolated from other like developments
   No physical connections with
    adjoining properties                            Neighborhood 17
                                                       Site condo development
Neighborhood 11                                        Higher density with small lots
   Large apartment complex                             Rolled curbs and sidewalks with no
   Buffered from all adjoining properties              separation from the street
   Dense clustering of buildings with a                Quality condominium development
    common, open space
   Isolated from other uses and properties          Neighborhood 18
                                                       Apartment Complex
Neighborhood 12                                        Adjacent to a commercial center
   Largest residential development in                  Street network and infrastructure
   Rockford                                            needs some improvement
   Large lot, luxury homes                             Little open space relative to population
   Unfinished at current, however, will                and housing density
   have new infrastructure when
   completely built out
   Homes built on crest (highest point in

CHAPTER 2 - PROFILE                            16                            MASTER PLAN 2020
            City of Rockford

CHAPTER 3 – PLANNING ISSUES                        New residential development has found
                                                   its place mainly on the west side of the
While Rockford is widely considered to be          Rogue River. However, rather than
among the region’s most desirable                  emulating the design traditions established
communities as a place to live, work, or           by the original settlement, the new
simply enjoy, there are a number of                immigrants to Rockford brought with
planning issues impacting the City’s future        them more contemporary styles of
and which this document addresses. A               development – wide meandering streets,
discussion of these follows.                       cul-de-sacs, and expansive front yards.
                                                   Elsewhere, industry and commercial
Small Town Charm                                   establishments have developed, but again,
                                                   did so without blending with the City’s
Narrow streets, shaded by towering trees,          original character.
and lined with well-kept, two story
homes… families strolling through the              In essence, Rockford has become two
neighborhood, chatting with friends along          visually distinct communities – a central
their route to the ice cream shop                  core, between the Rogue River and
downtown… such scenes are                          Wolverine Blvd./Northland Drive, and
commonplace in Rockford, a picture of              the expanded City, where new
small town America. Like many                      development lacks the traditional
communities, Rockford is somewhat a                character of the central core.
victim of its own success.
                                                   This physical dichotomy is identified as a
                                                   critical issue facing the City. It is
                                                   recognized that the original community
                                                   cannot be duplicated in every detail and,
                                                   in fact, the rugged terrain associated with
                                                   much of the remaining available land will
                                                   preclude the traditional neighborhood
                                                   development. However, it is widely
                                                   believed that new development, whether
                                                   residential or business, should incorporate
                                                   specific design elements, to the extent
                                                   possible, to create a more harmonious
                                                   image throughout the community. This
                                                   would blend the old with the new, rather
The quaint charm, compact size, family-
                                                   than define a hard line where one stops
friendly atmosphere, and nearby
                                                   and the other starts, suggesting two
employment opportunities have lured
                                                   separate communities.
many people to the community over the
years. The scale of that growth, however,
has outpaced the availability of existing
homes and land within the City’s central

CHAPTER 3 - PLANNING ISSUES                   18                             MASTER PLAN 2020
            City of Rockford

Despite the apparent physical differences,         other commercial center at 10 Mile Road
however, it is generally agreed that               and Wolverine Boulevard is bustling, but
residents City-wide share the same pride           is severely limited in its ability to expand
in the community and equally enjoy the             and is congested. A few scattered
assets that Rockford offers.                       businesses in other locations are
                                                   destinations, but lack the synergy to be
Neighborhood Integrity                             considered “centers”.

An issue closely related to protecting             During the public participation sessions,
Rockford’s small town charm is that of             several concerns were expressed about the
protecting the residential character of the        lack of business mix or diversity. This
City’s established neighborhoods from the          concern may be addressed in the future
threat of non-residential expansion.               from outside the City of Rockford, as new
Clearly, many uses such as churches,               “big box” development engulfs the U.S.
schools, and parks contribute greatly to           131 interchange at 10 Mile Road. Such
the fabric of the traditional neighborhood         outlying development may bring more
and may even provide a focal point for the         retail choice than can be accommodated
area.                                              within the City, but will also pose a
                                                   serious competitive threat to businesses
However, the growth and expansion of               within Rockford. This issue is discussed
churches, for example, has resulted in the         further in the “external influences”
demolition of viable housing to make way           section.
for paved parking lots. This type of
intrusion is not appropriate and erodes the        External Influences
desirability of the neighborhood, rather
than enhancing it.                                 The Master Plan is intended to guide
                                                   community development decisions to
Maintaining the residential integrity of           achieve the City’s long-range goals.
Rockford’s neighborhoods should be                 However, there are certain conditions
given priority over other competing                beyond the City’s direct control which
interests. Existing homes should not be            significantly impact its future. Such
sacrificed to non-residential uses without         external influences must be recognized
serious consideration of all other possible        and addressed to the extent possible by the
alternatives.                                      City in cooperation with its neighbors.

Commercial Opportunities                           Development along 10 Mile Road
                                                   probably has the greatest potential to
Commercial development presents a                  impact Rockford. Property acquisition
complex issue for Rockford. While its              and announced plans for large-scale
downtown is a focal point for the City and         commercial development at the U.S. 131
an attraction that pulls many visitors to          interchange at 10 Mile Road will create a
town each year, it is not without its              very large business center poised as a
problems. Business turnover, insufficient          substantial competitor to the established
room for expansion, and retail mix are             businesses in Rockford. In addition to its
frequently heard concerns. The City’s              mere presence in this location, such

CHAPTER 3 - PLANNING ISSUES                   19                              MASTER PLAN 2020
            City of Rockford

development will be positioned at the              available to accommodate projects of any
front door to the City. The first                  size.
impressions created by traffic movement,
architecture, landscaping, and signs will          Most of the surrounding land, located in
reflect positively or negatively on                four separate townships, remains
Rockford.                                          relatively rural and sparsely developed.
                                                   For the most part, these areas are planned
Other development on all sides of the City         for very low density residential
will also impact Rockford, either in a             development on acreage parcels.
complementary fashion or negatively.               Development philosophies also vary
Specific concerns with such development            among the adjoining communities. While
will relate to its compatibility with              Courtland (to the east), Cannon (to the
existing or planned uses in adjacent               southeast), and Plainfield (to the south)
Rockford; the image it presents at the             have planned their respective lands for
City’s entryways; and its visual                   various categories of rural residential,
relationship to the character of Rockford.         Algoma Township (west and northwest of
Again, these are matters outside the City’s        Rockford) anticipates a higher relative
direct control. To a large extent, the City        density (2-3.5 units per acre), if public
must rely on the cooperation of adjoining          utilities become available. In addition,
townships and their desire for quality             Algoma proposes extending commercial
development to promote a harmonious                and industrial development north of the
built environment.                                 City along the west side of Northland
To this end, a cooperative planning effort
has been undertaken by Rockford,                   Of the four surrounding townships,
Algoma Township, and Plainfield                    Algoma is the one most likely to support
Township to plan for the 10 Mile Road              development adjacent to the City. Such
corridor from U.S. 131 to the Rogue                development would probably be limited to
River. This unified effort, aimed at               moderate density residential, consistent
achieving a common set of objectives,              with that which already exists on adjacent
may provide a useful framework to give             lands in the City. In an example of
Rockford a voice in decisions affecting the        intergovernmental cooperation, Rockford
City beyond its borders and may serve as           has negotiated an agreement with Algoma
a model for similar efforts in other               Township to transfer 170 acres of
locations.                                         undeveloped township land into the City
                                                   in return for a tax sharing arrangement
Future City Growth                                 between the two communities.

Like cities everywhere that have already           Future industrial development presents a
dealt with growth issues, Rockford is              greater challenge. The existing industrial
nearing its capacity. Most of the                  park on the north end of the City is nearly
community is developed. Isolated lots              built-out. The only remaining land suited
here and there offer some infill potential;        to industry is found on the east side of
but there are few large tracts of land             Northland Drive, north of 11 Mile Road.
                                                   This land, however, is owned by

CHAPTER 3 - PLANNING ISSUES                   20                             MASTER PLAN 2020
            City of Rockford

Wolverine Worldwide Corporation and                neighborhood quality will be avoided.
will likely be held for corporate                  However, prolonged neglect
expansion. Additional industrial land is           could result in pockets of deterioration
needed to provide a tax base and expand            that could spread and influence
the employment opportunities for the               neighboring property values, making it
entire area.                                       more difficult to reverse the trend as time
                                                   goes on.
Conversely, whether future growth occurs
within or outside the boundaries of the            Redevelopment Opportunities
City, it will impact Rockford’s “small
town” character. It is important for the           As with most cities, when the raw land is
City to avoid the erosion of its                   gone the reuse potential of exiting
manageable scale.                                  developed areas is looked at more closely.
                                                   Rockford has few areas, however, that
One of the issues to be confronted as              lend themselves to redevelopment. Most
growth continues in and around the City            of the City’s mature development is
relates to moving traffic. As previously           comprised of well-maintained, highly
noted, east/west access is largely confined        prized residential neighborhoods. These
to the 10 Mile Rd./Division Street                 would not be appropriate locations for
corridor which connects with the only              redevelopment.
interchange at U.S.131 near Rockford.
Additional freeway access north of                 Two locations that present some
Rockford, via 12 Mile Road, would help             opportunity for redevelopment are the
alleviate the current and anticipated              central business district and Old
congestion.                                        Northland Drive between Courtland and
                                                   E. Main. The downtown business district
Physical Conditions                                offers the potential for creative
                                                   redevelopment of some existing buildings.
Overall, the City is well maintained. Its          In particular, upper floors of many of
homes and neighborhoods convey a sense             these buildings are vacant or, at best,
of pride in the community that is apparent         underutilized. Many offer potential
even to visitors. However, there are a few         opportunities for offices or apartments.
relatively isolated areas where signs of
neglect are evident – homes needing paint,         Beyond a building-by-building
torn screens, sagging porches, outdoor             redevelopment effort downtown, there
storage, etc. (A description of                    may be a long-range opportunity
neighborhood conditions may be found               immediately north of the central business
beginning on page 11.)                             district. Property currently owned and
                                                   partially occupied by Wolverine
Signs of deterioration are advanced                Worldwide Corporation could lend itself
warning signals of potentially greater             to eventual expansion of the business
problems in years to come. If acted upon           district with retail and mixed use
soon, these nuisance conditions can be             development. Removal of intense
corrected and further erosion of the               industrial activities from the heart of the
                                                   City would be, on one hand, a desirable

CHAPTER 3 - PLANNING ISSUES                   21                             MASTER PLAN 2020
            City of Rockford

objective. This would eliminate an
existing incompatible use, while opening a
prime area for future business district
expansion. On the other hand, however,
the City recognizes the importance of its
largest corporate citizen to the community
and surrounding area and will not
advocate a change unless and until
Wolverine desires to do so.

Another redevelopment focus is found in
the east central part of the City. The Old
Northland Drive area lacks a clear
identity. It is a mix of businesses and
residences, new and old, well-maintained
and neglected. Some new investment has
been made in the area in recent years, but
incompatibilities and deterioration still
exist. This area is one that would benefit
from extensive redevelopment efforts. It
needs to clearly focus on upgrading its
deficiencies and establishing a consistent
land use pattern.

CHAPTER 3 - PLANNING ISSUES                  22   MASTER PLAN 2020
             City of Rockford

CHAPTER 4 – VISION AND GOALS                           Create a place for local events which
                                                       can serve as a focal point for the
Rockford in 2020 will be a walkable                    community
small town that has maintained its
                                                    Central Business District (CBD)
natural and historical assets while
providing a variety of leisure,                     Goals
economic, and residential
opportunities resulting in a sense of                  Increase the viability and
community pride and distinctive                        attractiveness of the CBD
character.                                             Promote redevelopment and more
                                                       optimum use of downtown properties
                                                       Create a “sense of place” within the
Community                                              City’s core
   Maintain the small town scale of
                                                       Organize citizen and merchant interest
                                                       groups to spearhead needed
   Promote unified/cohesive direction for
                                                       improvements and activities
   the City
                                                       Facilitate the upgrading and reuse of
   Promote cultural diversity
                                                       existing structures
   Preserve the established character of
                                                       Create a major “draw”/attraction
   existing neighborhoods
                                                       downtown to bring more potential
   Promote neighborhood pride
                                                       customers to the merchants
   Promote area-wide planning
                                                       Encourage apartments/residential in
                                                       upper floors of downtown buildings to
   Manage future growth and
                                                       more fully utilize existing structures
   development in relation to the capacity
                                                       and increase the level of activity
   of public services and the City’s ability
                                                       Seek and obtain grants for downtown
   to maintain its high standards of
                                                       Create a taxing or special assessment
                                                       district in the CBD to support
Strategies                                             improvements
                                                       Determine an appropriate mix for
   Promote business in Rockford through                CBD businesses
   advertising its assets and conducting               Provide additional parking downtown,
   events                                              and/or work to improve convenience
   Establish a community calendar                      and utilization of existing parking
   Develop a community center as an                    Promote cultural events/festivals
   area attraction and an asset for the                within the business district to promote
   City                                                the downtown and increase customer
   Promote local cultural events/festivals             traffic
   to increase community pride, public
   awareness, and business

CHAPTER 4 - VISION AND GOALS                   23                            MASTER PLAN 2020
             City of Rockford

   Provide financial incentives for                  Discourage strip commercial
   improving buildings                               development along 10 Mile Rd. west
                                                     of the City
Housing                                              Provide opportunities for business
                                                     development in order that residents
Goals                                                may work near their homes

   Preserve the character and integrity of        Strategies
   existing residential neighborhoods
   within Rockford’s central core                    Encourage redevelopment of existing
   Achieve an atmosphere within new                  buildings to prolong their useful lives
   residential development that is                   and maintain the character of the
   consistent with the established                   community
   character of Rockford and its central             Adopt design standards for future
   neighborhoods                                     commercial development within and
   Promote affordable housing for senior             outside the downtown area
   citizens                                          Focus future retail development in the
                                                     downtown and 10 Mile/Wolverine
Strategies                                           areas
                                                     Promote the Northland Drive
   Prevent or minimize the intrusion of              corridor, between East Main St. and
   non-residential uses into established             Rum Creek, as the City’s
   residential neighborhoods                         office/service center
   Adopt planned unit development                    Support area-wide efforts to manage
   regulations that provide incentives for           land use along 10 Mile Road and
   developers to work more closely with              minimize the spread of competing
   the City in achieving creative results            commercial development
   Adopt standards for new residential               Seek new locations for future
   development that establish design                 industrial growth
   parameters for entryways, building                Support “Rockford First” economic
   placement, and streetscape which will             development efforts
   result in continuity and harmony
   rather than monotony and sameness              Natural Features
   Incorporate natural amenities (woods,
   common open space, water features,             Goal
   etc.) into new developments
                                                     Protect the City’s prized natural
Business/employment                                  features, including the Rogue River,
                                                     tree-lined streets, and hilly terrain
   Provide more retail choice within the
   City                                              Acquire lands along both sides of the
   Create a greater mix/variety of                   Rogue River for preservation and
   business activity                                 public enjoyment

CHAPTER 4 - VISION AND GOALS                 24                            MASTER PLAN 2020
             City of Rockford

   Require tree planting in new                  Actively pursue authorization from the
   developments                                  Kent County Road Commission for
                                                 additional street access to Wolverine
Parks & Recreation                               Boulevard


   Distribute parks throughout all areas
   of the City
   Increase public access to the Rogue
   River as a recreational amenity


   Seek and obtain grants for land
   acquisition and park improvements
   Cooperate with adjacent communities
   regarding development of an areawide
   multi-use park
   Develop a linear park and pedestrian
   pathway along the west side of the
   Rogue River



   Improve access and circulation to,
   from, and within the City


   Support areawide efforts to manage
   land use and access along 10 Mile
   Promote construction of an
   interchange at 12 Mile Road and U.S.
   Promote public interurban
   transportation service to and from the
   Provide sidewalks in areas where they
   are not yet available

CHAPTER 4 - VISION AND GOALS                25                        MASTER PLAN 2020
            City of Rockford

CHAPTER 5 – ROCKFORD’S FUTURE                       Land adjacent to the City’s west boundary
                                                    (approximately 170 acres) has recently
Land Use                                            become part of Rockford as a result of a
                                                    cooperative agreement with Algoma
The pattern has been established for much           Township. The development of this land
of the City’s future land use, due mainly           should be carried out as low density
to the fact that most of the land is                planned residential, developed in a
developed. However, there are some                  manner consistent with the guidelines
vacant parcels that afford an opportunity           found on page 34 , affording generous
for new development. In addition, while             open space to the residents, and providing
the City is well maintained overall, there          a suitable transition to the more rural
are limited areas of mixed use and                  residential development in the adjacent
marginal conditions where redevelopment             townships.
may be appropriate.
                                                    Medium Density Residential
Areas of future development and
redevelopment within the City are                   These areas generally coincide with
identified on the Future Land Use Map on            existing two-family and condominium
page 31. A description of the respective            developments, as well as much of the
land use categories follows:                        small lot, single family concentrations
                                                    within the City’s central core. For the
Low Density Residential                             most part the land designated as medium
                                                    density is developed. Such lands should
Most of the City is, and will continue to           be retained as residential use and not be
be, devoted to residential development.             converted to non-residential uses or lost to
The Master Plan attempts to reinforce the           parking facilities.
residential character of the community,
but also provides for a variety of                  The northwest corner of East Main and
residential choices, i.e., density and type         Northland Drive, while designated for
of unit.                                            Medium Density, is currently occupied by
                                                    several single family homes on large
The low density designation applies to              parcels. The proximity of this area to
much of the land west of the Rogue River            industrial development on the west,
and near the southern perimeter of the              commercial development on the north,
City. A somewhat isolated area is also              and Northland Drive on the east suggests
found at the City’s north end, east of              that a more concentrated form of
Northland Drive. By and large these are             development would be appropriate in the
newer residential areas consisting of single        future as a transitional use.
family homes on relatively large lots
(10,000 -15,000 sq.ft.) in comparison with          In addition, one vacant area has been
those of Rockford’s central core.                   planned for medium density. This is
Generally, the development of these low             found on the east side of Northland Drive,
density areas would contain no more than            near the City’s northern border. It is
three (3) dwellings per acre of land.               intended to provide a transition between
                                                    the existing single family homes to the

CHAPTER 5 - ROCKFORD’S FUTURE                  26                             MASTER PLAN 2020
            City of Rockford

north and anticipated industrial                    Office
development to the south and east.
Townhomes, condominiums, senior                     Office and related activities provide a
housing, or small lot single family are             buffer or transition between potentially
envisioned as possibilities for this                incompatible uses and offer a
location.                                           concentration of similar uses
                                                    unencumbered by conflicting retail traffic.
Densities within this land use category are
recommended to be between three and                 Several areas are planned for office
five (3 – 5) units per acre.                        development. One such area is the west
                                                    side of the block at the northeast corner of
High Density Residential                            S. Main and Division. This location is
                                                    already devoted to office uses and
Several areas of the City are designated as         provides an attractive entry into
high density residential locations,                 Rockford’s central business district. Two
providing both an alternative housing               others are located along the east side of
option and a buffer between lesser intense          Wolverine Boulevard, one south of 10
residential and more intense non-                   Mile Road, the other south of 11 Mile
residential uses. Most of these locations           Road. Both locations are relatively small,
are already developed with multiple                 but offer appropriate transitional uses
family complexes or similar residential or          between commercial activities or busy
institutional projects.                             traffic arterials and nearby residential
Most of the land planned for high density
is found along the east side of Wolverine           The largest planned office area is located
Boulevard where the rugged topography               between Old Northland Drive and
inhibits more conventional forms of                 Wolverine Boulevard. Currently occupied
housing development. An additional                  by a variety of uses ranging from
concentration is on the southeast corner of         residential to office to retail/service, a
Childsdale and 10 Mile Road that                    portion of the area is also vacant. As
contains an existing high density                   discussed elsewhere in the Plan, this
development.                                        location is an ideal candidate for
                                                    redevelopment and well suited to being
Development within these designated                 transformed into an office concentration.
areas may contain both single family and
multiple family units at densities up to ten        Highway Service
(10) units per acre. An emphasis,
however, should be placed on projects               This designation has been applied to two
specifically oriented toward senior citizens        linear belts along the west side of
for which a need exists, rather than more           Northland Drive in the north end of the
conventional apartment complexes which              City, adjacent to the existing and planned
are already found in several Rockford               industrial development. The purpose of
locations.                                          the Highway Service category is to
                                                    provide a location for businesses whose
                                                    primary focus is commercial service and

CHAPTER 5 - ROCKFORD’S FUTURE                  27                             MASTER PLAN 2020
             City of Rockford

which depend on a highway location for               While parking is a perceived problem by
customer traffic. They may also serve the            downtown merchants, there is little
adjacent industrial users. It is specifically        evidence of a real parking shortage.
not intended to be another retail shopping           Efforts should focus on better
district.                                            identification of available parking and
                                                     upgrading the appearance of existing
Businesses in this area should be limited            parking lots.
to service-oriented establishments such as
auto body shops, vehicle repair facilities,          More effort should also be expended
lawn care services, and building                     toward promotions and community
contractors. Some ancillary retail may be            events. Summer concerts, races, fishing
acceptable, but should be subordinate to             derbies, and similar community
the service nature of the business.                  celebrations should be undertaken to
The creation of the Highway Service area             highlight the downtown and draw people
provides a needed and appropriate                    to this unique space.
location for these businesses and a
transition area adjacent to the industrial           With respect to land uses, downtown is
development. In addition, by limiting the            envisioned to be a retail center. Some
retail activity, potential conflicts between         office uses may be appropriate but can
retail and industrial traffic will be                have a negative impact by taking prime,
minimized or avoided.                                street-level, retail space in highly visible
                                                     locations. It is strongly recommended
Central Business District                            that efforts be made to retain street-level
                                                     space for retail and similar uses, while
The City’s traditional retail core is found          encouraging the use of upper stories of
in the “downtown” along the east bank of             downtown buildings as either residential
the Rogue River. Its combination of small            or office. This may require the
shops and restaurants provides a focal               modification of some existing codes to
point for the community and a central                permit the needed renovations to occur in
gathering place that reinforces Rockford’s           a cost effective manner.
small town charm. In recent years, the
district’s image has changed considerably            While it is desirable for the downtown to
with extensive streetscape improvements,             remain compact in order to create needed
defining the downtown and making it                  synergy among the businesses and to
even more inviting.                                  ensure its walkability, there may also be a
                                                     future need for expansion of the district’s
Downtown Rockford must capitalize on                 boundaries. One area potentially suited to
its location and image. Uses should                  this purpose is found north of the current
continue to focus on small, unique                   CBD between North Main Street and the
specialty shops; entertainment facilities;           Rogue River. This site is currently
and community events. The riverfront                 occupied by Wolverine Worldwide, but
park, Rogue River dam, and White Pine                also contains retail outlets and parking. In
Trail offer inviting features for community          the event that the current industrial
events and group activities with spin-off            operations outgrow this site or must
benefits for the business community.                 otherwise relocate, the property should be

CHAPTER 5 - ROCKFORD’S FUTURE                   28                              MASTER PLAN 2020
            City of Rockford

redeveloped with uses more compatible               and greater visibility are essential
with the surrounding character of the area          requirements for many businesses.
which also afford an opportunity for CBD            Therefore, the Plan provides for
expansion. Future uses would include                commercial development in the outer
retail, but more appropriately, may                 perimeter of the City.
involve a mix of retail, office, and
residential in a planned setting.                   The concentration of this general
                                                    commercial is at the intersection of 10
CBD expansion onto the Wolverine                    Mile Road and Wolverine Boulevard.
Worldwide manufacturing site, is                    This area has become the “community”
considered very long-range and, in fact,            shopping district with a variety of retail
would only happen if the current facility is        establishments such as a grocery store,
moved or abandoned. However, more                   pharmacy, and gift shop; several services
immediate opportunities are afforded on             like a bank and dry cleaners; and a
the existing City-owned property along              number of restaurants. In addition, the
the south side of Bridge Street.                    area boasts a major health/fitness center
Development of this site should be strictly         which combines the facilities of a
controlled by the City to ensure both the           traditional athletic club with several
right use of the property (i.e., meeting a          related services such as counseling, sports
current unmet need which complements                medicine, physical therapy, and others.
the existing uses) and a high quality of
development that adds to the character of           The Plan does not envision any significant
the community.                                      expansion of the existing General
                                                    Commercial areas due, in part, to the
Conversely, expansion of the CBD along              limited amount of available land, as well
the east side of N. Main across from the            as the expected competition from large-
Wolverine facility should not be permitted          scale commercial development near the 10
beyond the non-residential development              Mile Road/U.S. 131 interchange, and the
already there. The existing residential             commitment to downtown Rockford as
structures on this block face should be             the commercial center.
retained to the extent possible. While
conversion to offices or two-family                 Industrial
dwellings may be appropriate as
transitional uses, such uses can be                 The bulk of Rockford’s industrial
accommodated under the current zoning               development is found in a column lying
classification (R-2) which should not               between the White Pine Trail and
change. No commercial expansion                     Northland Drive at the north end of the
should be permitted in this location.               City. This is where the newer industry
                                                    has located. A second industrial area, and
General Commercial                                  by far the largest, is found in the City’s
                                                    northeast quadrant, north of 11 Mile Road
Not all of the City’s retail needs may be           and east of Northland Drive. This vast
met downtown. In fact, due to space                 area is owned by Wolverine Worldwide
needs, parking requirements, and other              and is only partially developed for office,
demands of modern retailing, larger areas

CHAPTER 5 - ROCKFORD’S FUTURE                  29                             MASTER PLAN 2020
            City of Rockford

research, and some light industrial                  Conservation
                                                     The flood plain on either side of the
While most of this latter site is planned for        Rogue River, north of 10 Mile Road,
industrial, future development is expected           forms a narrow band that divides the City
to be limited to WWW’s facilities and will           approximately in half. This is designated
not be available for general development.            as a conservation area. Much of the land
Therefore, as Rockford’s inventory of                is low and subject to periodic flooding.
available industrial land dwindles, the              Therefore, intense development should
City will need to seek other alternatives to         not be permitted.
accommodate further industrial growth.
A cooperative effort with Algoma                     Ideally, the conservation area should be
Township to the north or Courtland                   protected as public or private open space.
Township to the east may be a desirable              It may be incorporated into developments
strategy.                                            on adjoining lands, aesthetically
                                                     enhancing such development and offering
Public/Quasi-public                                  passive recreational opportunities.

Lands occupied by and planned for public             The City is pursuing acquisition of lands
facilities (offices, parks, schools,                 along the west side of the Rogue River
cemeteries, etc.) and quasi-public facilities        and should continue this practice as a
(churches) fall into this category. These            means of both protecting the floodplain
uses are scattered throughout the City, but          and preserving the Rogue River as a
the largest concentration is found more or           public amenity. An aggressive program
less in the center of Rockford. Several              should be pursued of constructing a
school facilities (middle school,                    pathway along the length of this “linear
elementary school, administrative offices,           park”.
and athletic fields) as well as a City park
are located here.

One of the City’s most prominent features,
the Rogue River, is bordered by several
public recreational attractions including
Peppler Park, Garden Club Park, Rogue
River Dam Overlook, and White Pine
Trail. Another walkway is also planned
along the river’s west bank and should be
considered a high priority. In conjunction
with this trail, a pedestrian bridge should
be constructed (as shown on the
“Transportation Systems” map) to provide
a link with the White Pine Trail.

CHAPTER 5 - ROCKFORD’S FUTURE                   30                             MASTER PLAN 2020
              City of Rockford

Residential Capacity                                   Residential Character

As discussed elsewhere in this document,               The character of a city shapes the first
the amount of vacant land available for                impression of visitors, creates a lasting
development within the City of Rockford                public perception of the community, and
is relatively limited, even with the recently          establishes a city’s identity. Character is
acquired parcels from Algoma Township.                 the physical presence of a community – its
This is not unique to Rockford and, in                 appearance, scale, and warmth.
fact, Rockford may actually have more
available land than most small cities.                 Features that typify Rockford’s character,
Nevertheless, the limited supply of land               as identified in the Focus Group meetings
on which to grow is a constraint that                  conducted for this Plan, include:
should be understood.
                                                       •    historical buildings
The following table illustrates the                    •    porches
estimated amount of available planned                  •    walkability
residential property within the City and               •    small block, grid street pattern (classic
the “build-out” potential or capacity of                    city layout)
that land, both in terms of the number of              •    sidewalks
new dwelling units that might be expected              •    friendly neighbors
and the population that would be
                                                       •    maintained yards and streets
generated by such units. When added to
                                                       •    access to parks and natural features in
the existing population of 4,626
                                                            the City
(according to the 2000 Census), the
“build-out” population could reach 6,970,              •    compact development (allows for
a 50 % increase.                                            more social interaction)
                                                       •    newer large lot subdivisions
Residential   Vacant    Maximum    Potential   Population   Additional
Density       Net       Density    Units       per Unit     Population       This list shows
              Acres *                                                        characteristics that are
Low            168        3/acre        504          2.75          1,386     important to the residents
                                                                             of Rockford and issues
Medium           43       5/acre        215          2.50           538
Density                                                                      that need to be addressed
High             21      10/acre        210          2.00           420      as the City continues to
Density                                                                      develop and age. Some of
Total           232                     929                        2,344     the items mentioned are
* Net acres based on 75% of gross acreage to allow for streets and           not easily controllable,
unbuildable areas                                                            such as friendly
                                                            neighbors, but others tend to be physical
It should be noted that even if Rockford’s                  characteristics that can be controlled,
population does increase by this amount,                    influenced, or encouraged through City
the resulting population is still                           policies.
manageable and need not compromise the
small town character of the community.

CHAPTER 5 - ROCKFORD’S FUTURE                     33                                MASTER PLAN 2020
              City of Rockford

Rockford has several well-established               The newer perimeter development is less
residential neighborhoods, each with its            distinct. While attractive and desirable, it
own character. Neighborhoods                        is generally a mirror image of the
surrounding the Central Business District           subdivisions found throughout other area
are older and reflect a more traditional            communities and does not reflect the
pattern of development and sense of pride           traditional characteristics that are so
and stability. In the outlying areas of the         prominent in central Rockford.
City, the more modern ‘subdivision’
developments portray a contemporary,                Nevertheless, these developments offer an
progressive community-on-the-go image.              alternative character desired by many and
                                                    convey an image of a growing,
                                                    prosperous, young community. To some
                                                    extent, of necessity, this peripheral
                                                    development in Rockford has curving,
                                                    wide streets and cul-de-sacs running off
                                                    main arteries. Large lots up to one acre
                                                    have afforded the opportunity for
                                                    residents to meet their housing demands
                                                    in a more spacious setting.

       Tree lined street in Central Rockford
                                                    The need and demand for these
                                                    neighborhoods have created a niche for
                                                    large-lot subdivisions. Developments
Established neighborhoods in central                such as the Rockford Highlands and
Rockford are characterized by many                  Riverchase, as well as new developments
features and details that create a unique           in the north and east ends of the City,
“feel” that may be emulated but not                 have offered Rockford residents
duplicated in new developments. Among               alternative housing options to those in
these are:                                          central Rockford. This development
                                                    around the City’s perimeter provides an
                                                    appropriate transitional land use between
   •    tree lined streets
                                                    the lower intensity residential/agricultural
   •    grid pattern street network
                                                    land uses outside the Rockford’s
   •    on-street parking                           boundaries and the denser, more intense
   •    ornamentation detailing                     development of the central City.
   •    wood lap siding
   •    primarily two story houses                  In order to maintain Rockford’s strong
   •    mature landscaping                          identity and desirable character, the
   •    front porches and short setbacks,           following recommendations are offered
        giving the street edge definition           for all residential development, including
   •    single car attached or detached             existing neighborhoods:
        garages that are typically not a
        dominant feature of the lot                 •   enforce the City’s housing and
                                                        property maintenance code

CHAPTER 5 - ROCKFORD’S FUTURE                  34                              MASTER PLAN 2020
            City of Rockford

•   adhere to a regular maintenance                    garages in the rear of the lot may also
    program for sidewalks and streets                  be appropriate.
    throughout the City
•   establish an urban forestry program to         •   Neighborhood parks: Neighborhood
    maintain or replace street trees within            parks are a key element to any quality
    the City                                           neighborhood. They provide visual
•   protect existing residential                       relief to the neighborhood and
    neighborhoods from encroachment by                 gathering places for the residents.
    nonresidential uses                                Such spaces can take the form of a
•   avoid removal of existing dwellings                public park, a school playground, or a
    within established residential                     common area held by a neighborhood
    neighborhoods                                      association. The City should pursue
                                                       opportunities to create pocket parks or
In addition, the following guidelines                  small, but usable, open space areas
should be adopted for new residential                  within both existing and new
development to ensure a level of                       neighborhoods.
consistency within the community which
will link both the old and new housing             •   Sidewalk/pathways: Neighborhoods
within Rockford. It should be noted that               need an integrated pedestrian
one such development, Rockford                         circulation system which conveniently
Highlands PUD, has incorporated many                   and safely links residents to other
of the guidelines into its proposed                    neighborhoods, public gathering
residential development on the City’s west             places, and other key destination
side. When completed, the project will                 points within the City. As new
stand as evidence of the benefits that can             development is proposed, the City
be achieved for the residents of the                   should require that sidewalks be
development and the community as a                     provided. Additionally, it is important
whole.                                                 that appropriate connections be made
                                                       to adjacent sidewalk and pathway
•   Architecture: Residential structures               systems and to key destinations (parks,
    should have curb appeal that creates a             shopping, schools, churches,
    friendly environment and promotes                  employment centers, etc.).
    interaction between neighbors. The
    dominant feature, as viewed from the           •   Street lighting: In order to promote
    street, should be the entryway to the              activity in the neighborhoods and
    home through design features such as               establish a safe environment for
    a front porch, front walkway, and                  residents, street lighting should be
    living area. Garages and garage doors              provided along the roadway and
    should not dominate the front façade.              walkways. Ideally, the lighting should
    To minimize this potential                         be decorative to ensure compatibility
    obtrusiveness, garages should be                   with the neighborhood. In some
    recessed or set back from the front                situations, such as at intersections, a
    building line; or the overhead door                more powerful light fixture may be
    should face the side or rear. Detached             more appropriate. Lighting should be
                                                       reasonably spaced and should by no

CHAPTER 5 - ROCKFORD’S FUTURE                 35                              MASTER PLAN 2020
            City of Rockford

    means create glare which negatively                 and all new development should
    impacts nearby sites or motorists.                  incorporate such a feature.
                                                        Landmarks can be in the form of
•   Street design: A traditional street                 natural plantings (trees, flowers,
    cross-section should be applied                     gardens) or man-made features
    throughout the City. This should                    (sculptures or fountains) situated in a
    consist of concrete curb and gutter and             park or common open space area. A
    relatively narrow pavement width                    landmark may even be a building such
    (26 – 30 feet). Streets should be                   as a prominent church or school.
    designed to keep speeds and volumes
    low. Methods to accomplish this                 •   Walkability: The design and density
    include maintaining a narrow width,                 of new residential development should
    creating short block faces, and                     be at a walkable scale. The actual size
    accommodating some curves in the                    of a defined neighborhood should be a
    road. Stop signs should be used only                reasonable walking distance of one-
    where fully justified by traffic                    half mile across and contain a central
    conditions and not as a means of                    feature such as a park or school.
    slowing traffic. Additionally, streets              Residential uses need to be within
    should be interconnecting and                       walkable distance to some form of
    provide ample and safe access to the                recreation, civic, and/or shopping
    existing network. Where a vehicular                 opportunity to maintain this sense of a
    connection is not possible, a pedestrian            “walkable community.”
    link should be provided.
                                                    •   Blocks: A key aspect of maintaining
•   Streetscape: Design features within the             physical connections throughout the
    streetscape such as street trees between            community is an interconnected series
    the sidewalk and curb can also be used              of streets and blocks. While new
    to alert a driver to slow down. In                  streets do not necessarily need to
    addition, streetscape elements                      follow a rigid grid pattern, at a
    establish the roadway as a design                   minimum street connections should be
    feature, not just an impervious surface             provided. These links are vital to
    for vehicles. Street trees should be                shortening driving and walking
    provided within the lawn area between               distance within the community and
    the street and sidewalk and should be               enhancing interrelationships within
    spaced 30 to 40 feet apart. Light                   the neighborhood.
    fixtures of an appropriate scale and
    design can also be used to enhance the              Cul-de-sacs, the dead-end streets so
    appearance of the streetscape.                      common in contemporary residential
                                                        developments, contribute significantly
•   Landmarks: Landmarks are features                   to detracting from the sense of
    that create a distinct neighborhood                 neighborhood continuity. These
    identifier, a sense of place at key                 streets isolate residents and obstruct
    locations, or focal point with which                traffic flow and should, therefore, be
    people can identify. Many of the older              avoided to the extent possible. While
    neighborhoods possess a landmark;                   rugged terrain, especially west of the

CHAPTER 5 - ROCKFORD’S FUTURE                  36                             MASTER PLAN 2020
             City of Rockford

    Rogue River, makes through street                under the jurisdiction of the Kent County
    connections impractical in some                  Road Commission.
    locations, every effort should be made
    to minimize cul-de-sacs and create               An intergovernmental study effort
    blocks and interconnecting streets.              explored both land use and transportation
                                                     issues related to this corridor and
•   Neighborhood identity: Older platted             proposed a variety of recommendations
    subdivisions within the City have                for 10 Mile Road. These included
    individual names, but are fully                  widening the street (west of the City) to a
    integrated into the overall fabric of the        four-lane boulevard and establishing joint
    community and do not have any type               land use and design controls.
    of sign to delineate their boundary.
    However, the current trend for new               Several other transportation
    subdivisions is to create a prominent            improvements are recommended within
    entry often consisting of walls, even            or near the City to accommodate
    gates, and a distinctive sign                    anticipated increases in traffic volume, as
    emblazoned with the subdivision                  well as to ameliorate some existing
    name. This is intended to provide a              conditions. These are described as
    separate and distinct (often exclusive)          follows:
    identity apart from the broader
    neighborhood or wider community.                 •   Twelve Mile Road/U.S. 131
    This concept is not consistent with the              Interchange: This area is outside the
    traditional neighborhood design                      City of Rockford. However, access to
    within the core of the City. Single                  the U.S. 131 expressway north of
    family plats should not be permitted to              Rockford is considered a highly
    isolate themselves with physical                     desirable improvement, relieving some
    barriers and separate identities. Plat               pressure on the current 10 Mile Road
    entry signs, walls, gates and similar                interchange, and providing an
    symbols of exclusivity and isolation                 alternative for northbound traffic. An
    should be discouraged.                               added interchange in this location
                                                         would still maintain adequate
Transportation                                           spacing from the existing 10 Mile and
                                                         14 Mile Road interchanges. Rockford
Rockford depends primarily on the                        officials should actively promote this
personal motor vehicle for mobility.                     concept among GRETS, MDOT, and
There is no scheduled public transit                     the Kent County Road Commission.
service. While traffic within the City
moves relatively freely, movement to and             •   Ten Mile/Eleven Mile Road
from the west (U.S. 131) is hampered by                  Connector: Land recently brought
large volumes of traffic on a two-lane road              into the City along its west border is
(10 Mile Road). Because it lies outside                  already experiencing residential
the City boundaries and is actually the                  development pressures. It is
dividing line between Algoma and                         imperative that before
Plainfield Townships, 10 Mile Road is                    this area is platted and developed,
                                                         provision should be made for a

CHAPTER 5 - ROCKFORD’S FUTURE                   37                              MASTER PLAN 2020
            City of Rockford

    north/south connector street to link 10             should, therefore, be reconstructed to
    Mile Road with 11 Mile Road.                        facilitate this turning movement.

•   Old Northland Drive Vacation: As                •   Ten Mile Road Widening: Affecting
    part of the recommended                             little, if any, of 10 Mile Road within
    redevelopment of the area along Old                 the City limits, this improvement
    Northland Drive, west of Wolverine                  would have a major impact on moving
    Boulevard, it is suggested that the one             traffic in and out of Rockford and
    block segment of Old Northland Drive                creating an attractive “front door”
    between E. Main Street and Lewis                    image for the City. As envisioned, 10
    Street could be vacated to create a                 Mile Road would be widened to a
    more usable land area for future                    four-lane boulevard between U.S. 131
    development.                                        and a point west of Highlander Drive.
                                                        No change should be made to the
    This would permit several shallow lots              existing three lane cross-section within
    to be enlarged or combined with other               the City (Main to Lincoln). While
    parcels to create one or more usable                traffic volumes on this segment are
    parcels for redevelopment. It would                 heavy, further widening of this
    also improve traffic movement at the                segment would result in a loss of the
    Wolverine Boulevard/11 Mile Road                    magnificent trees that line the street
    intersection.                                       and deterioration of the residential
                                                        character of the abutting
•   Lewis Street Extension: In                          neighborhoods.
    conjunction with the vacation of a
    portion of Old Northland Drive, Lewis           •   Alternate Access Road at Southwest
    Street could be extended east to                    Corner of Division and Wolverine
    Wolverine Boulevard, subject to Kent                Boulevard: To provide needed relief at
    County Road Commission approval.                    the Division Street/ Wolverine
    This improvement could relieve the                  Boulevard intersection, as well as an
    awkward E. Main/Wolverine/11 Mile                   alternate means of egress for traffic
    intersection and provide a direct entry             exiting the businesses on the south side
    into the redevelopment area.                        of Division, west of Wolverine, an
                                                        access road should be constructed
•   Reconstruct Wolverine Blvd/11 Mile                  around the rear of the existing
    Road Intersection: Due to the angle of              businesses. This improvement would
    this intersection, large trucks                     connect the parking areas located
    experience great difficulty in making a             behind the existing businesses and
    right turn onto eastbound 11 Mile                   allow traffic to exit just west of the car
    Road from Wolverine Boulevard. The                  wash location, further removed from
    potential for much more industrial                  the Wolverine Boulevard intersection.
    development in this part of the City                This improvement would have the
    and the attendant increase in truck                 added benefit of improving access to
    traffic will only exacerbate the already            the rear of the deep lots, making them
    poor situation. This intersection                   more usable.

CHAPTER 5 - ROCKFORD’S FUTURE                  38                              MASTER PLAN 2020
            City of Rockford

CHAPTER 6 – IMPLEMENTING THE                         Things to Remember
                                                     To conclude, some explanation is
                                                     appropriate regarding how the Master
Roles & Responsibilities
                                                     Plan should be used. First, it is essential
                                                     to understand that the Plan is a policy
While the Master Plan is essentially the
                                                     guide. It is not an ordinance and does not
product of the City Planning
                                                     replace zoning. The Plan is supposed to
Commission’s efforts, making the Plan a
                                                     work hand-in-hand with zoning and other
reality will require the combined efforts of
                                                     City development tools. A few important
many individuals and groups. Clearly, the
                                                     things to know about the Plan are:
Planning Commission and City Manager
will be charged with the responsibility of
                                                         Let It Be Your Land Use Guide
spear-heading the Plan’s implementation.
However, the City Council must be in
                                                         Remember that the Master Plan is a
support of the Plan’s recommendations
                                                         guide for future land use. The Plan
and will be responsible for the future
                                                         Map may not look like the zoning
allocation of funds for specific
                                                         map or the existing land use map. It
improvements and for the regulatory and
                                                         really shouldn’t. The Plan Map is an
much of the policy support needed to
                                                         illustration of the long-range land use
bring specific actions to fruition.
                                                         pattern of the City, based on the goals
                                                         and strategies adopted as part of the
Outside the confines of City Hall, other
                                                         Master Plan.
committees and organizations can lend
support to the Plan. Among these are the
                                                         The Plan is land use policy. City
DDA, chamber of commerce, school
                                                         decisions, as well as those of the
district, and historical society. Likewise,
                                                         private sector, should follow the Plan.
cooperation from the Kent County Road
                                                         New streets, parks, public
Commission will also be necessary to
                                                         improvements, etc. should be
accomplish some of the tasks set forth in
                                                         consistent with the land use policies
this document.
                                                         adopted as part of the Master Plan.
Assistance and cooperation from the
private sector also has a place in the Plan’s
                                                         Refer To It In All Zoning Decisions
implementation. Developers and
corporations in the routine course of their
                                                         One of the principal benefits of having
activities will exert either a positive or
                                                         an adopted Master Plan is the
negative influence over the direction the
                                                         foundation it provides for zoning
City takes. They should be encouraged,
                                                         decisions. Just as the Master Plan is
therefore, to make a conscious effort to
                                                         the policy guide for land use, zoning
work in partnership with the City to help
                                                         is the principal legal enforcement tool.
Rockford achieve its vision for the future.
                                                         The two should work in conjunction
                                                         with one another.

CHAPTER 6 - IMPLEMENTING THE PLAN               40                             MASTER PLAN 2020
            City of Rockford

    As the Planning Commission and                  change. That way it will remain an
    City Council are faced with making              up-to-date policy guide over time.
    zoning and land development
    decisions — rezoning, site plan                 Another practice the Planning
    review, special use permit, planned             Commission is encouraged to adopt is
    unit development, plat reviews, etc.            to conduct a regularly scheduled
    — the relationship of those requests to         (typically annual) review of the Plan.
    the Master Plan recommendations                 Even if no changes have been
    should be a primary consideration. A            warranted during the course of the
    request to construct a commercial use           prior year, it is wise to take time to
    in an area planned for residential              consider the continued relevance of
    development, for example, would be              the Master Plan. This is a good time
    contrary to the Plan and should not             to make amendments to keep the Plan
    be approved, unless the Plan is                 current and consistent with City
    determined to be in error for that              philosophies.
    particular location.
                                                    Keep It Current
    In some cases, it may be appropriate
    to initiate a change to existing zoning         The most often heard reasons for not
    boundaries so they more closely                 following a Plan are that it is out of
    conform to the Plan                             date or is no longer relevant. It seems
    recommendations. This could help                many communities undertake a
    avoid conflicts at a later date.                master planning effort with the idea
                                                    that once the plan is completed the
    Be Flexible                                     job is done for twenty years until it’s
                                                    time to do a new plan. With this
    As important as it is to use the Plan as        philosophy, the community’s plan
    a guide, it is equally important to             will become obsolete very quickly.
    recognize that the Plan must be
    flexible. Changing circumstances,               As noted previously in this document,
    unanticipated opportunities, and                it is essential to keep the Master Plan
    unforeseen problems can require a               current. On an annual basis, the
    shift in direction. Such mid-course             Planning Commission should set
    adjustments are not unusual, though             aside one meeting just for the purpose
    they should not be a frequent nor an            of reflecting on the past year and
    easy occurrence.                                considering possible amendments to
                                                    the Plan.
    However, because a deviation from
    the Plan may be appropriate in a                It is unrealistic to expect the Plan to
    specific instance, doesn’t mean that            remain unchanged for its 20 year life.
    the Plan is no longer relevant and              Neither the Planning Commission or
    should be ignored from that point on.           its professional advisors can predict
    When these conflicts arise, the Plan            the future. While the Plan provides a
    should be amended to reflect the                broad framework for land use
                                                    decisions, site-specific issues may

CHAPTER 6 - IMPLEMENTING THE PLAN              41                         MASTER PLAN 2020
           City of Rockford

    arise that were unanticipated and             Along the same lines, the Planning
    deserve close scrutiny. Where uses            Commission may also participate in
    are approved contrary to the Plan, the        the preparation of a Capital
    plan should be amended to reflect the         Improvements Program (CIP). This
    change. By routinely following this           is an annual process conducted in
    procedure, the Plan will continue to          many communities to prepare a
    be an up-to-date, reliable planning           continuing list of needed
    tool.                                         improvements, identify funding
                                                  sources, and set priorities. The CIP
    Use It As A Management Tool                   can be an invaluable tool for
                                                  implementing the direction set by the
    “No street, square, park, or other            Master Plan.
    public way, ground, or open space, or
    public building or structure, shall be
    constructed or authorized in the
    municipality... until the location,
    character, and extent thereof shall
    have been submitted to and approved
    by the commission...” This provision,
    taken from Section 9 of the Municipal
    Planning Act, requires the Planning
    Commission to review all public
    improvements for conformance to the
    Master Plan prior to their final
    authorization. In the event the
    Planning Commission disapproves
    such a project, a 2/3 vote of the City
    Council is required to override that
    action. If the Planning Commission
    does not act in 60 days, approval is

    This provision is not intended to give
    the Planning Commission veto
    authority over public improvements,
    but to ensure that formal
    consideration is given to the
    relationship of such improvements to
    the City’s Master Plan. In evaluating
    that relationship, the Planning
    Commission should look at
    consistency with land use, as well as
    the impact of the proposed
    improvement on other Plan

CHAPTER 6 - IMPLEMENTING THE PLAN            42                        MASTER PLAN 2020
           City of Rockford


APPENDIX                      MASTER PLAN 2020
                       Rockford’s Youth City Planning Program

            To utilize the views, concepts and dreams of Rockford’s
              5th grade students to enhance the City of Rockford’s
    Master Plan and to nurture the student’s understanding of citizenship and
                                  community life.

The Kidspeak program was developed in conjunction with Parkside Elementary School to
elicit input from a large segment of Rockford’s youth. Broken down into sessions
conducted over several days, the program involved all fifth grade students at Parkside,
introducing them to the basic concepts of planning and zoning.

Initially, a bus tour acquainted students with the City including important landmarks, public
service facilities, parks, natural features, and the range of different uses found throughout
the community. Students were asked to observe what they liked and didn’t like and wanted
to change. Following their orientation to the City and how it works, students were
organized into small groups to create plans for the City’s future. Using the lessons learned
and with the assistance of the mayor, city council members, city staff, and planning
commissioners, students applied their creative and artistic talents to designing the Rockford
of the future. Public facilities such as parks and trails were placed throughout the
community; commercial and industrial districts were sited; and a variety of housing options
were arranged, along with other amenities that came from their fruitful imaginations.

The final Kidspeak session included a presentation of the nine versions of the “Laphamville
of the Future” plans to the Rockford City Council, linking the original community founded in
1846 with the Rockford of the future. The students also wrote essays to explain in narrative
form how their vision for Rockford was developed and why.

The Kidspeak program proved to be an enjoyable, educational, and valuable aspect of the
Master Plan process for both students and City. The maps and narratives developed by the
students have been included on the following pages to ensure those creative visions are
considered as Rockford continues to develop into the future.
                                                        Day 1
City Day
• Introduce City Manager / Consultant to students
• Begin brainstorming what students believe is the role of a city.
• Discuss typical City functions and certain planning concepts to lay the foundation for the project.
• Present maps of the City of Rockford to students to become familiar with the size and characteristics of the
• Discuss purpose and function of zoning and why it is important to a community.

                                                        Day 2
City Tour Day
• Reintroduce City staff.
• Discuss purpose of today’s session.
• Students board a school bus to tour the City including landmarks, public facilities, street layouts, and general
     zoning districts. City map is brought for reference points
• Students are asked to document what aspects of the City they like and do not like- and were.
• Students were asked to observe differences between the old part of town compared to new growing areas of the

                                                        Day 3
City Development Day
• Reintroduce City Manager and City staff members and/or elected/appointed officials.
• Today the students are to help construct their ideal city based on their observations during the previous lessons..
• Create Ideal City – Students were broken into groups to construct the ideal city. Each group is given a large
     base map of the City including the City limits and river and creeks. Students were asked to place various
     landmarks, buildings, public facilities, parks, zoning districts, and to draw a street system using previous lessons
     as a foundation
• After creating their ideal city, each group was charged with writing an essay as to why their city was created in
     the manner that it was.

                                                        Day 4
City Government Day
• Students were invited to a Special Council meeting to present their ideal City's of the future. Each group
     presented their map and read their essay to explain the areas of Rockford they kept the same and those they
     propose to change- and why.
• The essays and future City maps are to be included on the following pages.
           City of Rockford


APPENDIX                      MASTER PLAN 2020
Kidspeak Vision for
  Laphamville #1      0   500

Kidspeak Vision for
  Laphamville #2      0   500

Kidspeak Vision for
                      0   500      1500
  Laphamville #3            FEET
Kidspeak Vision for
  Laphamville #4      0   500

Kidspeak Vision for
  Laphamville #5      0   500

Kidspeak Vision for
  Laphamville #6      0   500

Kidspeak Vision for
  Laphamville #7      0   500

Kidspeak Vision for
  Laphamville #8      0   500

Kidspeak Vision for
  Laphamville #9      0   500


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