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Posted: Mon May 06, 2019 12:16 pm
by Paul Ringstrom

Posted: Tue May 07, 2019 6:48 am
by Bill Swan
The Rockford City Council has now approved the Annexation and Special Use Permit for The Laurent House Visitor Center - if you click on the link in Paul's post above, there is an updated version (see the last sentence of the text of the article).

Later on today I will post a link to some of the City Council meeting packet which shows the details of the plan. BTW, I am one of the docents there and have been following this closely as it navigated through two city committees and the council.

Posted: Tue May 07, 2019 1:06 pm
by Roderick Grant
Without having reviewed all that has gone on, I wonder if the complaints of the neighboring residents has resulted in a modification of the plan to make it fit in better? Minimizing the impact should be a goal.

All of this brings up the similar situation, handled quite differently, of the Martin House Visitor Center. Were there any complaints about that while it was being planned or built or since?

Posted: Tue May 07, 2019 6:58 pm
by Bill Swan
Here is the promised link from the City of Rockford. Sorry this is a giant document but the section to focus on runs from page 138 through 161. If you want to see the plans of the grounds, they appear on page 151 and 152.

Here is the link: http://rockfordcityil.iqm2.com/Citizens ... nline=True

For those who only want a summary, there are two parcels (across the road from Laurent) with a total property of about 0.8 acre. One parcel is vacant (which will be where the 23 car parking lot is located) and the other parcel contains the house. The house is from 1927 - has good bones but needs lots of work. Will become the visitor center with restrooms, archive space, museum, library, meeting space, waiting area, etc.

I understand there were a few last minute concessions but a fellow docent emailed that they were mostly landscaping oriented. The plan from day one was to make the grounds as unobtrusive as possible - a matching fence will be built behind the property and lots of berms and other landscaping to obscure the parking lot from the road.

Posted: Tue May 07, 2019 10:13 pm
by SDR
Well done, Bill. I see there is to be a prohibition against the parking-lot lighting being used after 5:30 PM; one wonders why lighting would be required if it couldn't be used when needed !

S

Posted: Wed May 08, 2019 11:18 am
by JimM
Roderick Grant wrote:Without having reviewed all that has gone on, I wonder if the complaints of the neighboring residents has resulted in a modification of the plan to make it fit in better? Minimizing the impact should be a goal.

All of this brings up the similar situation, handled quite differently, of the Martin House Visitor Center. Were there any complaints about that while it was being planned or built or since?
Generally, Martin has always been a welcomed fixture, but it has had a rough go of it. Location has been a very beneficial aspect due to considerable public use of the area and proximity to Delaware Park. Unlike Larkin, private and public efforts always took importance of preservation into consideration. The most vexing issue affecting historic sites such as this has been parking, which has been alleviated for some time offsite at the Buffalo Zoo, only a short walk away.

Frankly, if I lived in the Laurent neighborhood, I would not be thrilled driving past a parking lot in my neighborhood every day. However, as the site improvement plans indicate, to me at least, every effort is being made to make things as palatable as practically possible. One would hope the neighborhood has the capacity to absorb reasonable changes with the sole intent to address valid concerns.

Posted: Wed May 08, 2019 11:53 am
by SDR
A professional rendering of the site, showing berms partially hiding the parking area, might have been useful in selling the concept. But it appears that a green light was given, in any event . . . ?

S

Posted: Thu May 09, 2019 7:49 am
by pharding
Converting a local house into a visitor center with parking on it grounds will not be the disaster that one neighbor claims. Obviously, a visitor center and parking is needed. It serves the greater good of the community and Rockford. One neighbor objected. That is not unexpected and is not a big deal in the overall scheme of things.

Reconfiguring the vehicular access to the house itself and putting any parking on the site of the Laurent House is a dreadful idea. The design of the site was an important part of the historic story of any historic building. That integral part of the story of the house needs to be respected. People unable to walk from the visitor center can always be transported in a golf cart. A big tourist bus idling next to the house spewing cancerous diesel fumes hurts the whole experience.

Look to the Westcott House in Springfield Ohio as an example of what not do. They spent millions on the restoration of the house for maximum fidelity to history. Then someone convinces the board it should obliterate the adjacent modest historic houses because they suffered from deferred maintenance. They were always part of the original story. The FLW design strongly responded to it with an inward-looking courtyard. Now the Westcott House just sits in this green desert to one side, a context that never existed.

Posted: Thu May 09, 2019 11:53 am
by Roderick Grant
Somehow the Currier in Manchester has succeeded in getting visitors to and from Zimmerman without compromising the site or gassing the visitors. What would be beneficial for a similar arrangement at Rockford would be that the facility, whatever type, could be a concern that is self-supporting, as opposed to an expense exclusively for the house. As planned, the Laurent annex will inevitably add cost to the maintenance of the FLW property. The budget will have to include maintenance and repair for the annex as well as the house.

Posted: Tue May 21, 2019 1:43 pm
by DavidC

Posted: Tue May 21, 2019 3:45 pm
by Paul Ringstrom
The Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity (DCEO), Office of Tourism, announced funding for several grants designed to increase tourism across the state.

The Tourism Attraction Grant Program will help develop new or enhance existing tourism attractions to grow visitation and overnight stays in Illinois. DCEO provided grant funding to 13 organizations with an amount totaling $1.4 million.

The Laurent House Foundation, which provides upkeep for the Frank Lloyd Wright home in Rockford, received $250,000 from this program. The grant will allow the foundation to purchase the land needed for its new visitor center.