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Volunteers spent days decorating windows in vacant Rockford nursing home that burned Saturday

Rockford Register Star - 12/18/2018

Dec. 17--ROCKFORD -- About 90 volunteers spent four days in August trying to beautify a vacant North Main Street nursing home that neighbors say tarnished their neighborhood.

On Monday, two days after a fire scorched the part of the building that faces North Main, the former Rockford Nursing & Rehabilitation Center at 1920 N. Main St. looks worse than ever.

"It tugs at my heart because of all the work that was done,"said Vickie Fogel, president of the North End Square neighborhood association.

In August, a lift hoisted volunteers to the second floor to install leaf-patterned boards made of recycled materials as part of a citywide pilot effort to brighten up dilapidated properties.

"It was unsightly," Fogel said of the property, whose owners had been sued by the city over blight. But after the decorative boards were in place, the before-and-after "was like night-and-day, literally."

Investigators have not released any new information on the cause of the fire, which caused about $120,000 worth of damage. Fogel said the property had attracted criminal activity in the past, and she said the fire "did not surprise me."

There was fire on both floors of the structure when firefighters arrived around 8 p.m. Saturday. No one was injured, the Rockford Fire Department said in an incident report. An excavator demolished sections of the building to aid firefighting, the report said.

The nursing home closed in 2011 after the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services decertified it over concerns about the quality of care. A judge in August 2017 ordered its owner to pay a $300,000 fine, which went unpaid.

"The board-up was a Band-Aid fix," Fogel said. "Ultimately, we want the building gone."

Georgette Braun: 815-987-1331; gbraun@rrstar.com; @GeorgetteBraun

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(c)2018 Rockford Register Star, Ill.

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