By Michelle Juma

Geo-Targeting: A New Strategy for Neighborhood Revitalization in Rockford

Just before the close of 2019, the Rockford, Illinois City Council approved a neighborhood revitalization strategy to improve city neighborhoods based on the Network’s recommendations. This strategy is the culmination of 5 months of extensive research and partnership from the Network team and community contributors to create a Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy and Typology tool for the City of Rockford. As the follow-up engagement to Rockford’s multi-year financial plan, the Network’s recommendations included two main components:

  1. A neighborhood typology that integrates available data to characterize neighborhoods by their strengths and challenges; and
  2. An accompanying strategy that builds on the typology to provide guidance on the decision making and implementation process of neighborhood improvements across the city. /

Rockford’s complex challenges – including high vacancy rates, a weak housing market, historic disinvestment, and widespread blight – present a unique opportunity for asset-centered revitalization. An asset-centered revitalization approach amplifies the roles of the people of Rockford, it’s architectural character, and natural beauty as the foundation of any transformation plan for the city. These distinguishing features have the potential to offset the challenging market realities and negative perceptions that have posed challenges to attracting investment in the past. When residents feel valued and protected, cities are better positioned to implement cross-sector strategies with increased engagement and accountability at all levels.


Combining existing data on neighborhood conditions and the input of community stakeholders, the neighborhood typology organizes Rockford into strong, middle, emerging, and special neighborhoods. Neighborhoods share characteristics across a number of demographic and market data. These groupings serve as a starting point for conversations about data-driven, targeted outreach at the census block level – a process that can effectively allocate public resources to areas and increase impact.

The Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy and Typology includes recommendations for strategic demolition, foreclosure assistance and mitigation, vacant land reuse, and property improvement tailored to Rockford’s neighborhoods. In addition to that guidance, the Network identified specific opportunities in Middle, or “tipping” neighborhoods, where opportunities for investment were often overlooked or found ineligible for typical development mechanisms. To further identify opportunities for action amongst surrounding typologies, the final strategy included a range of tactics and interventions to address housing quality, neighborhood place-making, community connection, vacant structures, and safety in the short, medium, and long terms.