Redevelopment of the Former Barber-Colman Factory in Rockford

 The former Barber-Colman Co. complex on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023, in south Rockford. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)

ROCKFORD — Developer J. Jeffers & Co. on Tuesday announced it has signed its redevelopment agreement with the city, officially marking the start of a massive undertaking to transform the vacant Barber-Colman factory into a mix of apartments and businesses.

The Milwaukee-based developer made the announcement less than 24 hours after City Council members unanimously approved the agreement Monday night. The vote came after more than a week of contentious debate, and J. Jeffers’ announcement signals its commitment to go forward with the project.

“We have been working in full collaboration with Rockford city staff to make Colman Yards a reality the past two years,” Joshua Jeffers, CEO and founder of J. Jeffers. “The level of perseverance and due diligence needed to align the large-scale, highly complex capital resources and deal parameters of this project is a victory for the thousands of hours of effort inside our organization, across all of City Hall, the offices of our many local Rockford partners, and for the community at-large.”

The company expects to start the $170 million first phase of the project later this summer. In that phase, with portions expected to be complete in 2025 and 2026, nine long vacant historic buildings along South Main and Loomis streets will be redeveloped into 334 apartments and 105,000 square feet of commercial space. A new 336-space parking deck would also be built.

The total project would be built in phases over roughly a decade and is expected to cost roughly $430 million. It would transform the 26-acre site into 964 living units and roughly 130,000 square feet of commercial space.

“I’m thrilled that, after two years of research, due diligence and design work, we have a signed development agreement with J. Jeffers for our Barber-Colman complex,” Mayor Tom McNamara said in a news release. “This will be a transformational project for our entire community and will be an incredible complement to our other redevelopment efforts, including the recently renovated Embassy Suites Hotel, along a major thoroughfare into our city. We’re grateful for J. Jeffers’ partnership, and we can’t wait to see the incredible vision for Colman Yards become a reality.”

J. Jeffers said the past two years has included more than 20 rounds of public meetings, numerous community engagement sessions, a request-for-proposal bidding process with a state prevailing wage agreement, thousands of hours on design and construction planning, grant writing, public incentive applications and complicated capital markets and loan commitments.

“We would especially like to thank Mayor McNamara, the resilient and capable city of Rockford staff, the supporting City Council members and the entire community of Rockford for the amazing amount of support and civic engagement we received for this development,” Brian Loftin, chief development officer for J. Jeffers & Co., said in an a news release. “When we began this open journey of imagining what’s possible for the Barber-Colman site in conjunction with the city and all that participated from the very beginning, we felt the energy of change and greatly appreciate their willingness in shaping this collective vision.”

The former manufacturing site dates back to 1907 and at one time employed more than 3,000 people. Barber-Colman operated on the site until 1984, when the business was sold to Reed-Chatwood Inc., which operated until the late 1990s. The city has owned the property since 2002, and J. Jeffers & Co. will buy it for $500,000 as part of its redevelopment agreement.

This article is by Kevin Haas. Email him at  or follow him on Twitter at @KevinMHaas or Instagram @thekevinhaas and Threads @thekevinhaas

Source: Haas, Kevin. “Developer J. Jeffers & Co. Signs Deal Committing To Redevelop the Former Barber-Colman Factory in Rockford.” Rock River Current. July 18, 2023. Accessed July 20, 2023.

“Vets ask role in memorial” – October 1974

Source:  Rockford Register-Republic  10/16/1974


“Mayor, vets agree on memorial fund” – Oct 1974

Source: Rockford Register-Republic 10/15/1974


“Officials oppose civic center deal” – January 22 and 24, 1975, Home Rule powers

Source: Rockford Morning Star, 1/22/1975 and 1/24/1975

“Mayor Seeks Limits On Home Rule” – 1/18/18

Source: Rockford Register Star January 18, 2018





Amrock Hotel – 2018 groundbreaking eyed – Dec 2017 article

Source: The Rock River Times, December 20, 2017; article by Jim Hagerty, photo by Don Bissell

Midway Theater

Source: Rockford Morning Star 1/23/1921

Case # 8000 1422  Historic Preservation Commission (City)

Source: Rockford Register Star 1/23/1981

Source: Rockford Register Star 1/15/1987



Opened Aug.3, 1918, originally home to a theater, 4 storefronts, 20 apartments and a basement. A fire nearly destroyed the building in 1980 after restoration it was home to the Rockford Symphony Orchestra, 16,000 square feet of office space and TV studio. The Palmquist family sold the theater in 2000 to a land trust company. Andy Palmquist and his family regained control of the building in 2007. Violinist Itzhak Perlman, Cheap Trick performed on stage. The Senator Obama spoke there in 2005. Bankruptcy judge cleared way for theater sale for $160,000 to the Midway Center Gateway Foundation. Sonny DeLuca, Frank Amato and William Howard created foundation in July to buy and renovate theater Initial fundraising goal in $500,000, but DeLuca said theater has sustained $3 million in water damage over the years. 1 year later, a local businessman launched an ambitious $8 million plan in 2008 to buy and restore building, court documents say Palmquist has a $200,000 balance on building’s mortgage with Commercial Mortgage & Finance building has $55,000 in tax liens plus various unpaid bills. About $11,000 in delinquent 2005 property taxed were purchased by Z Financial LLC, Chicago. Financial filed a motion in bankruptcy court to pursue claim against Palmquist.

Source: Rockford Register Star 11/27/2009




Panic of 1907 [1905]

Rockford Bankrupt

Source: Rockford Morning Star 11/15/1905

the Panic of 1907, also known as 1907 Bankers’ Panic, was a financial crisis that occurred in the United States when the New York Stock Exchange fell close to 50% from its peak in 1906 there were numerous runs on banks and trust companies many state and local banks entered into bankruptcy primary causes include a retraction of market liquidity by a number of New York City banks and a loss of confidence among depositors. Crisis was triggered by the failed attempt in Oct 1907 to corner the market on stock of the United Copper Company. Panic extended across the nation as vast numbers of people withdrew deposits from regional banks. The panic may have deepened if not for the intervention of financier J.P. Morgan, who pledged large sums of his own money, and convinced other New York bankers to do the same.  At the time the United States did not have a central bank to inject liquidity back into the market. April 1906 earthquake that devastated San Francisco contributed to the market instability. In late 1906, the Bank of England raised its rates, partly in response to UK insurance companies  paying out so much to U.S. policyholders. The Hepburn Act, which gave the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) the power to set maximum railroad rates, became law in July 1906. This depreciated the value of railroad securities. March collapse is sometimes called “Rich Man’s panic” Union Pacific stock fell 50%, copper market collapsed in July, New York city bonds failed, Aug. – the Standard Oil Co. was fined $29 million for anti-trust violations.

Source: Wikipedia