When the industries in this river community
of Freeport began to decline in the 1980s,
so did Freeport. The City has been working with V&A to reverse this trend of disinvestment since 1999, identifying sustainable economic opportunities and putting them into place at riverfront brownfield sites.
In 2011, the City of Freeport was awarded a HUD Community Challenge Planning Grant from the Sustainable Communities program. This grant is just the latest in a series of successfully funded state and federal proposals that V&A has assisted Freeport with over the past fourteen years—further demonstrating how success begets success when a community is armed with a compelling vision, committed leadership and partners, and an aggressive funding strategy.
This approach has led the following achievements:
- Leveraged over 9 million in funding from USEPA, US HUD, USDA, State of Illinois, and local partners
- Redeveloped a former battery plant site to a regional trail-head for the Grand Illinois Trail and boat launch for the Pecatonica Water Trail
- Business planning for a food entrepreneurship center
- Redevelopment strategy for the riverfront, including a reuse strategy for a 450,000 vacant industrial complex, in the process of being redeveloped to include an Amtrak station, food entrepreneurship center, urban living, industrial/flex space, business incubation, cultural uses, and a brew-pub. Environmental cleanup activities are nearing completion and the Complex’s second tenant is moving in
- Engagement of residents and organizations across the community and region, including efforts to empower and build capacity in residents from disadvantaged riverfront neighborhoods
V&A has helped Freeport to achieve these major milestones not only through a strong relationship with City leadership, but also with its local and regional partners including the University of Illinois-Extension, Stephenson County, the Northwest Illinois Development Alliance, and many committed and engaged citizens and businesses. Freeport is a clear illustration of a rural Midwest community repositioning itself for sustainable economic opportunities in the 21st Century global economy.