Rock Island’s a proud city with a great history.

It was once a thriving industrial hub in manufacturing.

A downturn in that segment of the economy decades ago has left a revolving door of city leaders dealing with a challenge to find ways to reinvigorate the economy.

Rock Island doesn’t have a lot of empty space to build new things. It requires redeveloping existing space.

The latest strategy to encourage that took shape this week.
Illinois state representative Mike Halpin held a news conference to drum up support for legislation proposed in Springfield.

The measure would establish income tax credits for people who rehabilitate existing buildings.

They have to be historic structures.

The tax credit could be applied against the expenses it takes to renovate the property.

Supporters say this proposal would encourage investment in older properties in Illinois — East Moline, Moline and Rock Island.
Developers could potentially take advantage of it to restore older buildings in downtown Rock Island.

We’ve seen some investment there in recent years.

This could perhaps prompt developers to move quicker.

It would also open opportunities for improving old homes near downtown in historic neighborhoods of Rock Island and making it a more attractive city to live.

There’s no question Rock Island is always looking for opportunities to promote itself.

This legislation could provide the city with another tool.

One man ready to add that to his toolbelt joined 4 The Record for a conversation: Rock Island Mayor Mike Thoms.

Thoms talked about this historic tax credit and what kind of impact he thought it could have on Rock Island, what downtown properties he thinks it could be useful for when it comes to attracting investors, and what neighborhoods he thinks could benefit if this becomes law.

“I’m definitely behind it. There’s no doubt about it,” Thoms said. “I think it can have a lot of impact — I don’t know the exact dollar amount — but you see it across the river over in Davenport. The state of Iowa has had over $600 million worth of renovations done in different buildings throughout the state. About $450 million of that was in Davenport, so you can see the benefit that it can bring for developers. So we’re hoping to be able to do the same thing. … It exists in the state of Illinois. There’s actually five different cities that have it. It’s called River’s Edge. Peoria, Rockford and several others — and they’ve seen some great benefits from it. It was originally designed to be a test program. They’ve tested it. It works, and so now everybody’s asking, ‘Let’s make it across the state and even the playing field.'”

Thoms mentioned the VanDerGinst building, the former Rock Island Argus newspaper building and Circa ’21 as possible locations that could take advantage of these incentives, adding that they are “architecturally-based.”

Rock Island has to focus more of its attention on redevelopment than new development.

Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa have land that moves west available for new construction.

Rock Island is confined.

It’s my understanding this historic tax credit is about saving old buildings, but not making room for new ones.

Thoms discussed what else he can do to encourage those big investments that would bring something new on properties that might require demolition to start over.

“This is about restoring,” Thoms said. “Now sometimes there is demolition next door to it, but there are areas where TIFs work and may make sense. And you can use the TIF money for that kind of project instead of historic tax credits. So it’s a matter of which tool to use.”

Watch the entire discussion in the video above.

Local 4 News, your local election headquarters, is proud to present 4 The Record, a weekly news and public affairs program focused on the issues important to you. It’s a program unlike any other here in the Quad Cities. Tune in each Sunday at 10:30 a.m. as Jim Niedelman brings you up to speed on what’s happening in the political arena, from Springfield, Des Moines, Washington, D.C. and right here at home.