City’s riverfront skyline to get new look with Lorden building’s paint job

ROCKFORD – So long, lavender, blue, and mellow yellowish.

You did your job for a quarter century using all your "pastel-ness" to call attention to the outside of the seven-story Founders Landing’ Lorden building at Davis Park, mostly known for housing activities during the city’s now-defunct On the Waterfront music festival.

But your time has come, and white is the color of your demise. Painters are coating the outside of the structure mostly in white as the city readies for the opening next door of the $87.5 million Embassy Suites by Hilton Rockford Riverfront hotel and Rockford Conference Center.

Other colors to be featured on the building include gray, with accents of green, yellow and black. The colors complement the colors of the city’s conference center and Gorman & Co.’s hotel. More than 470 gallons of paint will be applied to the Founders Landing building, including on a few spaces inside.

The painting is being done by employees of Nova Painting & Decorating, which also painted the inside the hotel and is discounting its cost for painting the Lorden building, said Jennifer Bunjes, owner and president. The structure was last painted in the mid 1990s.

Total cost for painting the building is $80,000, with Gorman paying $40,000 and the city, through fundraising efforts and maintenance funds, paying the balance. Painting started Tuesday and Bunjes said it will be completed by June 1, "to coincide with the hotel opening."

John Groh, president and CEO of the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, said in an email that the hotel opening has been planned for June 1, but he was unsure Tuesday if that was still the target date. Spokesmen for Gorman & Co. did not immediately return phone calls.

The 160-room, 13-story hotel is housed in a former Amerock factory. Davis Park is on 7 acres next door, along the riverfront in southwest Rockford.

In the short term, Founders Landing will continue to serve the same purposes is has up to this point, said Groh, who is helping coordinate development of Davis Park.

The first floor contains bathrooms for public use during large events, and the interior has "green rooms" for entertainers to gather in should there be large concerts. The second floor serves as a gathering space during large events overlooking the Rock River and the north and south lawns of Davis Park.

The building also serves as a sound barrier so activities can occur on both sides of the park simultaneously. And it is a landmark and visual identifier for the park, Groh said.

Longer term, it could be redeveloped with mixed uses that complement the park, such as food service or a restaurant, commercial office space, event space or other experiences such as indoor climbing walls, Groh said.

"While the city and the Davis Park Task Force continue to explore ways to redevelop Davis Park, painting the Lorden building will give it some new life and will make it a much better neighbor to the new conference center and Embassy Suites," Mayor Tom McNamara said in a news release.

Georgette Braun:; @GeorgetteBraun