Demolition, remediation make way for new Rockford Public Library


February 2018 to Present



The main branch of the Rockford Public Library is in the middle of a $33 million redevelopment project along the Rock River in downtown Rockford, Illinois. The original turn-of-the-century building was built by steel magnate Andrew Carnegie on land where Rockford Gas, Light and Coke operated a manufactured gas plant (MGP) from 1856 to 1898. The MGP was demolished, and Carnegie library was built, opening to the public in 1903. The library was remodeled in the 1960s into an 88,000-square-foot building.

In the 1960s, Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) acquired Rockford Gas, Light and Coke. In 2010, ComEd proactively conducted an environmental study of the former MGP at the library site, where its predecessor once operated. ComEd, in cooperation with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency as part of the Site Remediation Program, identified MGP contamination in the soil and groundwater under the library. Experts determined the library should be demolished to appropriately remediate the contamination.

Before negotiations with ComEd, library officials wanted a partner to work on their behalf to help determine the next steps to best serve the organization and community. The Library Board of Trustees hired Fehr Graham to consult and represent them throughout the project. Negotiations between the library and ComEd resulted in the 2018 demolition of the library building, followed by remediation. Once remediation is complete, construction will begin on that site.

Fehr Graham worked with project architects on preliminary engineering, site design and riverfront redevelopment. Our engineers and landscape architects designed the site for the new library to blend in with the riverfront and provide a more urban feel by opening it up to the riverfront while using a contemporary look. The design allowed for river access with some seating and walking paths. We also designed the riverwalk wide enough to accommodate emergency vehicle access to the building and surrounding sites. Throughout the project, Fehr Graham coordinated with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to complete the site design on floodway designated land.

The board also hired Fehr Graham to survey and design the temporary library's parking lot at 214 N. Church Street in Rockford.

» Completed boundary and topographic surveys.
» Designed site.
» Coordinated with FEMA.