Vision, Goals & Plans

VISION: A vibrant, creative hub for living, working, dining, shopping, and connecting to the region. 

The vision for the Rawleigh Complex redevelopment is big, and it’s bold. The project will leverage the site’s location near the river and the downtown core,  and the appealing industrial character of the existing buildings. The completed multi-building redevelopment will become a showpiece of creative economic development and building reuse, envisioned as a vibrant living, working, shopping, and dining hub linked to the area’s local food network and vital multi-modal transit system. It will also turn a large complex of vacant buildings into a catalytic project with the economic energy and momentum to spur additional reinvestment in the area.



Repurposing a Symbol of Community Heritage. There’s no ignoring it – the Rawleigh Complex is a massive collection of buildings that literally and figuratively tower over the downtown riverfront. This project aims to transform the complex from a symbol of rustbelt industrial decline to a symbol of Freeport’s heritage – repurposed, re-imagined, and re-energized. Chef

Sparking Change. Many of the proposed reuse opportunities for Rawleigh have a common mission: to reposition Freeport and the region within the 21st century global economy. This project is concentrating the energy from a number of projects—food business incubator, artist housing, passenger rail station, entrepreneur and “tinkering” space—to have a greater impact than any of these projects could have on their own.

Bringing Community Together. Redeveloping Rawleigh is certainly not a small project. In the context of Freeport’s market, it’s unrealistic to expect any developer to invest in the project without substantial partnership and support. The City learned early on that it could not pull this project off on its own, nor could a developer. Community partnerships are critical to the project’s successes to date, and will continue to be in the future. The unanticipated results of many of these partnerships has been to bring people together around initiatives including local foods and the arts that have much broader-reaching impacts than Rawleigh alone.



Regional and Area Context The City of Freeport is situated in the heart of the Chicago to Galena “tourism corridor” and the Freeport to Madison “local food corridor.” Strategically located at the US Highway 20 and IL Rte. 26 interchange approximately 20 miles west of Rockford, Freeport is easily accessed from – and accessible to – points in all directions including Chicago, Madison, Galena/Dubuque and the Quad Cities. The Rawleigh Complex is located less than 5 minutes away from this key interchange and within one block of the Grand Illinois Trail connecting Chicago to the Mississippi River. The Complex also is adjacent to the CN railroad tracks slated as the route for the new Amtrak service from Chicago to Dubuque. As the east end anchor of the downtown Freeport, the Complex serves as a transition point into the Third Ward Neighborhood.  It is located on Main Street – downtown’s primary commercial avenue – and is one block off of Rte. 75 and Stephenson Street – the downtown’s primary traffic arterials.  Adams Street, a primary north-south arterial, adjoins the site to the west.

Rawleigh Master Plan Planning for the Rawleigh Complex began in 2000 when the initial USEPA and HUD grants were awarded to address environmental issues and begin evaluating future uses of the buildings (links to these previous planning efforts are provided at the bottom of this page).  Given the changes in the economy over the last decade, the plans have been updated and expanded to the master plan documents linked below and all of the development opportunities described on this website.

See the Development Opportunities section for more detailed reuse strategies for the complex.

Freeport Multimodal Station The Freeport Station project will leverage and enhance the pending passenger rail connection between Chicago and Dubuque by creating a dynamic, mixed-use, multimodal transportation hub serving rural northwestern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. Located at the midpoint of the Chicago / Dubuque route, Freeport Station will be a vital, regional transportation hub that strengthens the State’s economy and improves transportation efficiency by uniting rail, auto, transit, and bicycle infrastructure. A separate website for the Freeport Station project can be accessed here,

Public Market

Housing Housing is a critical part of any active downtown and mixed-use development and a key part of the Rawleigh redevelopment program. A downtown housing study conducted in 2012 focused on the development of upper floor residential units in buildings throughout the downtown but also quantified the demand for downtown housing in general.  An appendix to the study provides a summary of an earlier analysis conducted by Artspace of Minneapolis concerning the potential for artist live-work units in downtown Freeport.

Regulatory Documents The mix of uses proposed as part of the Rawleigh Complex redevelopment required a unique zoning district, which was put into place in 2012. In 2014, the entire property was replatted to carve out individual lots for each of the buildings. The redevelopment of Rawleigh continues to be a cornerstone of downtown Freeport’s renaissance as reflected in the community’s comprehensive plan.

Previous Rawleigh Plans Dealing with the environmental and reuse issues associated with a five-building complex with more 460,000 square feet has been a major undertaking for a city of just over 25,000 residents. Nevertheless, the community has shown tremendous resolve in maintaining positive, forward momentum to return the Raleigh Complex to being an economic engine for the entire county. The state of IL and federal agencies have continually endorsed and affirmed the City’s plans by providing more than $4.6 Million in grants and in-kind services to date.