Looking at the state and progress of each corridor in town

‘We need to focus on all of them’


ROCHELLE — When Rochelle City Manager Jeff Fiegenschuh was hired four years ago, one of the strategy areas the then-mayor and city council wanted him to focus on was downtown growth and development. 

“I think we've done a great job,” Fiegenschuh said. “It's not just the city. You have people who have spent significant dollars in the downtown. There have been some significant upgrades. We want to continue to promote that.” 

Gov. JB Pritzker visited Rochelle over the summer and was “very complimentary” of the downtown, Fiegenschuh said. 

“That made us feel good,” Fiegenschuh said. “Because we take pride in our downtown. We get compliments about the look of it all the time. That's important. We're going to continue to focus on that."

Fiegenschuh spoke with the News-Leader last week and discussed the city’s strategy of looking at and improving different corridors in town.

Illinois 251 south

Over the summer, the city purchased the Johnson Tractor building at 1030 S. 7th St. after the business moved and plans to consolidate its utility equipment and operations there. Fiegenschuh said that was part of getting involved with and improving that area.

The city manager cited the Prescott Brothers Ford dealership, Fastenal, the golf course and the new storage units as some of the assets to the area. 

“There's a lot of potential,” Fiegenschuh said. “What can we do to continue to focus in that area? And I'm not talking just flowers and stuff. I mean really trying to push more development to that side of town. We worked with Mr. Bruns to tear down that old printing building, so there's a lot of opportunity on the south side there to really do some beautification and steer more development there.”

Illinois 251 north

When on Illinois Route 251 coming into the north side of town from Hillcrest, Fiegenschuh believes Rochelle looks “really nice.” He called Ace Hardware “probably” one of the best additions to the community and said it filled a huge need. 

The city is currently lobbying the state to reconstruct and widen Illinois Route 251 from Flagg Road down to Walgreens. He believes “a lot” of development will come when that project takes place in the next few years.

Illinois 38 east

Another corridor that includes an entrance to the city is Illinois Route 38 on the east side of town. The new Pilot gas station opened recently near Interstate 39. 

“A lot of people complain that all we ever get is gas stations,” Fiegenschuh said. “Well, they're coming here because there's a market for their product. They wouldn't come here if there wasn't a market.”

The city ran utilities across Interstate 39 to the Pilot station when it came to town, which Fiegenschuh called “advantageous.” He said the business will help the city with the money it spends on property taxes and more development like that makes residential property taxes less likely to go up. 

The city manager said Rochelle will continue to focus on the Illinois Route 38 east part of town and possibly update signage. The city is working on updating street lights in the Walmart area.

“If you go on Caron Road past Walmart we have the big ornamental lights,” Fiegenschuh said. “We want to put those along Illinois Route 38, we just have to get IDOT approval. Once we get that, you'll see new street lighting going up."

The Sullivan’s grocery store off Illinois Route 38 and Caron Road has yet to be filled since its closure. Fiegenschuh said the city has had conversations with Sullivan’s and that as the owner of the property, Sullivan’s is working to fill it. He said what happens with that location is up to the seller and a potential buyer and the city would help out in any way it could if asked.

Illinois 38 west

Fiegenschuh said another corridor that is a focus is Illinois Route 38 coming into town from the west. He cited Silgan and MightyVine as good businesses in the area. 

“Focusing on that area and keeping it looking nice and ensuring if we have industry that goes up there, that it's aesthetically pleasing as people come in and it has been so far,” Fiegenschuh said. “I think it's important we have multiple corridors coming into our town. We shouldn't just focus on one. We need to focus on all of them. That doesn't mean that one year maybe we don't spend more time on one area, but over a 5-10 year period every corridor needs to be focused on."

‘All of them’

Fiegenschuh said he believes that there’s a lot of potential in all of Rochelle’s corridors. He believes that downtown is the heart of the city and people love the shopping and small business experience, but said that’s seen in other areas of town as well. 

“I think if we have too much of a vision where we're only going to narrowly focus on one area, that's when we have a problem,” Fiegenschuh said. “I think we just need to continue to try to promote the entire town. I hate saying one area. I really do believe every corridor needs to be looked at.”