The former Kmart on Sandy Hollow Road in Rockford operated as a mass vaccination site from Feb. 23 to June 11, 2021. Now developers are working to get it ready for new businesses. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)
By Kevin Haas
Rock River Current
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ROCKFORD — After serving as a site where thousands of people were vaccinated against COVID-19, developers are now preparing the former Kmart on Sandy Hollow Road for its next chapter.

First Midwest Group, which owns the property, spent about $1.4 million combined on repaving the parking lot and roof repairs for the former Kmart at 1321 Sandy Hollow Road, which closed in April 2018. The company also demolished two buildings in front of the property to make way for new development.

Sunil Puri, founder of First Midwest Group, says redevelopment will be modeled after what his company has done with the former Kmart at Forest Hills Road and Riverside Boulevard in Loves Park. There, First Midwest Group made several improvements before bringing Boxed Up self-storage and JC Licht to the building. It also built frontage buildings for Starbucks and other businesses and is now constructing a new Aldi’s grocery store.

“It’s a forgotten part of Rockford, as was the other Kmart that we totally redid,” Puri said. “If we don’t invest in our community, who will?”

Related: City aims to prepare historic Watch Factory for redevelopment

Puri 2018 DYN Trust purchased the nearly 19-acre property from Walmart for $850,000 in February 2020, according to a deed with the Winnebago County Recorder’s Office. A year later, Rockford found itself in a scramble to land a mass vaccination site for the Illinois National Guard as it worked to quickly circulate the newly approved coronavirus vaccine.

Puri answered a call from Mayor Tom McNamara, and about 24 hours later made a lease agreement with the city for the site. It was the fastest time his company had ever worked to complete a lease, Puri said at the time.

The mass vaccination site operated from Feb. 23 until June 11, and more than 78,600 shots were given there.

“The proof is in the pudding. We put a new roof on and we redid the parking lot,” Puri said. “We wouldn’t do that if we don’t have plans and didn’t want to be committed long-term.”

This article is by Kevin Haas. Email him at or follow him on Twitter at @KevinMHaas or Instagram @thekevinhaas.

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