A City Reborn: How One Real Estate Company is Transforming Downtown Rockford into a Thriving, Family-Friendly Destination
Downtowns indicate and affect the overall health of a community: they are the key to future economic success and provide an element of cultural identity.
Unlike previous development efforts that focused on recruiting factories and offices to draw potential employees, the shifting economic model of the 21st century requires a focus on enhancing the quality of life and desirability to attract talent.
Joseph James Partners desires to preserve Rockford’s rich history and reinvent its future through the redevelopment and repurposing of historic buildings. Joseph James Partners’ strategy and collaboration will, in turn, create an inviting sense of place and community for residents and visitors alike.
The Background: A Strategy Plan Saves a Struggling City
In the early 2000s, the citizens of Rockford, Illinois knew a change needed to happen. Once coined “The Screw Capital of the World,” Rockford had witnessed a steady economic decline when local screw and fastener factories, heavily utilized from WWII to the Cold War, shifted to cheaper labor overseas. That, paired with a 25-year-old civic plan and business sprawl into the suburbs, resulted in this city 90 miles outside of Chicago struggling to survive.
In stepped Peter Provenzano, a man with a passion for urban renewal and pride for his hometown, and co-founded Joseph James Partners (JJP), a real estate company, in 2005. He grew up hearing stories of “Old Rockford” and the good old days, and knew that this diamond-in-the-rough city still had potential. From the riverfront to historic buildings to the growing arts program, Rockford was on the cusp of greatness.
JJP’s goal was to optimize the city for the future, and that meant not only making investments and buying properties, but also helping change the perception of downtown from unsafe to family-friendly.
Today, Mark Stefanic, Director of Projects at JJP, believes the city and company are well on their way to recreating a thriving place to live. Its developments include a mix of residential and commercial properties serving a variety of local businesses in the retail, restaurant, and entertainment industries.
“JJP’s effort has been to activate our downtown, to prioritize and participate in the planning process of our community, and bring whatever we identify is lacking – higher education, ground-level retail, urban rituals.”
Aligning Every Job, Project, and Goal to JJP’s Overall Strategy
JJP has found that open and streamlined communication not only keeps projects in the context of the larger strategy but also gives every employee a sense of purpose. “And when people understand their purpose,” Stefanic says, “it helps them do their jobs better and achieve their goals.”
When every position and task is aligned with JJP’s greater mission, the team finds it is easier to balance the company’s short- and long-term goals: “You can see progress as it happens, and how individuals are contributing to the project. Envision also helps us look at our goals and helps us understand if we’re on track or, if not, focus our efforts on the areas needing attention to reach our goals.”
Adjusting Plans to Fit Strategy
As strategic thinkers, the JJP management team prefers to plan for potential roadblocks or shifted scenarios. They appreciate the usefulness of MPOWR Envision, as it allows them to store relevant details that are “important to JJP’s mission, including external information or government information.”
Little did they know creating this space within the software would help them navigate the global outbreak of COVID-19. Compiling announcements and government regulations became critical when evaluating their options moving forward.
“Because of our work within Envision,” Stefanic explains, “we were able to keep each other updated without losing sight of everything else going on. We looked at how the hotel industry was reacting to the pandemic, investigated touchless temperature checks, and uploaded reports regarding heating ventilation air handling. We used MPOWR Envision to vet the options and consequences as a team.”
The flexibility of the tool simplified their process, and since the strategy plan is a living, breathing document, the JJP team felt confident as they shifted their timelines for upcoming and current projects.