By Kevin Haas
Rock River Current
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ROCKFORD — Real estate developer Urban Equity Properties is adding more apartments to its Midtown Lofts on Seventh Street.
The developer is converting ground-floor commercial space in the 400 block of Seventh Street into seven upscale lofts. That’s in addition to the 14 upper-floor lofts the company built after it bought and began to restore the former Queen Anne building in 2014.
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Justin Fern, the founding principal of Urban Equity Properties, said the decision was made because there has been high demand for more livings spaces in Rockford but not much interest from businesses in the commercial space at that location.
“It was just a hard sell on the ground floor, and we’ve been pretty successful with these apartments on the upper floors,” Fern said. “Typically our developments are upper floor residential, ground floor retail and office, and on Seventh Street it’s just working a little differently. But if you look at any major city, you’ve got ground-floor residential all over the place.”
City Council members on Monday voted 12-0 to approve a special-use permit to allow Urban Equity Properties to convert the commercial space to residential units. There is no city tax money being used for the development.
“It’s a small project but small doesn’t mean not important,” Fern said. “We feel strongly that the demand for housing will solve that vacancy issue on the ground floor.”
The building — which spans 401, 405, 407, 409 and 411 Seventh Street — will be all residential with a total 21 lofts once the work is completed. It also has parking across the street.
There will be six new one-bedroom units and one two-bedroom apartment. Rents will all be market rate, which has typically been around $1,200 for the Midtown Lofts.
Fern said work will begin in 2024 with a goal to complete in the third quarter of the year.
The Midtown Lofts are one of several residential projects that Urban Equity Properties is working on around the city.
The Water Power Lofts, a 60-unit luxury loft development inside a vacant industrial building at 700 S. Main St., is expected to start preleasing in late February or March, Fern said.
The Nu-State apartments, 119 N. Church St., will bring 35 apartments and a grocery store to downtown in late 2024.