Changing hearts and minds about Rock Island’s 11th Street Corridor.

That’s the mission behind a new effort created by a group of 14 non-profits and churches along the 3.5-mile region.

They want to improve the look and opportunities in an area with its share of difficulties.

The Nonprofit Consortium on 11th Street said they hope to be the jump start to make that happen.

“The anchors of that corridor are nonprofits, from churches to the Martin Luther King Center to IICIL (Illinois Iowa Center for Independent Living), Community Healthcare, the ARC of the Quad Cities, Youth Hope, Friendship Manor,” said member Jeff Condit, who is the director of development at Friendship Manor. 

A study they commissioned in 2019 found the two most significant issues they face is the appearance and safety concerns.

It also found the perception is worse than it is among people who are not from the area. 

Condit said, “It’s not going to get better if we do nothing.”

NPC 11 plans to use the report as a launching point to give them ideas and motivation to move forward. 

Dennis Harker said, “We take pride in where we’re at, and we want to push that forward.”

The 11th Street Corridor is home and work to many, including Dennis Harker who runs The Treasure Chest and QC Missing Persons Network.

Harker said, “I’ve had no problems, I’ve lived here for 16 years.”

But not everyone sees it that way.

Harker said, “We get a lot of people who say I don’t want to go to that end of Rock Island you know because it’s dirty. It’s high crime.”

That’s why he’s joining with others in this community to reclaim what they said is essentially Rock Island’s Main Street. 

MLK Luther King Center Executive Director Jerry Jones said, “It’s the front door to our city, and if it’s not the front door, it’s at least the mainly used back door.”

For David Levin, this effort might have a hint of deja vu. 
In 1999, he was a neighbor who took part in Making Cents of 11th Street report to improve this corridor.

David Levin said, “There’s been bits and pieces of things that happen, but there hasn’t been a real concerted to start taking 11th Street and really bring it forward like other communities in the Quad Cities.”

Back then as is now, a lot remains the same, but it’s the perception that the main hindrance in the area.

Jones said, “The last 20 to 40 years has been negative, but you know what, shame on us if this continues for another 20 years.”

The NPC 11 report found crime – mainly assaults and thefts – and general appearance has driven that negativity, but new or more business is seen as the principal avenue for improvement.

“We could do everything possible to make a business want to take a look at us, and that means cleanup and getting giving a little thought to how you appear. I remember when I wanted a date, the better you looked, the more likely you where to get the date,” said Condit.

For the nonprofits and churches, they want to use their experiences to change the former and bring in the latter.

Harker said, “We’re here to serve, and everything we do serves the community, and I think what we’re doing here is just an extension of that.”

Condit added, “We realized that we are not urban redevelopers. We’re a bunch of non-profits, but yet we serve different segments of the population. We know what people need, and we know how to communicate it.”

The hope is not to be starting again in 20 years. 

Levin said, “We need a light bulb, to keep flashing and this is I believe it what is happening.”

They said to make that all possible it means including neighbors and businesses to fight for this place to call home. 

“It all feeds together, and I think that improved picture will just begin its own life and grow from there. As it grew down, it will grow up,” said a member of NPC 11 Donna Evans.

Condit said, “Maybe that land needs to be presented a little better, a little nicer to say hey this indeed is ready. You know, come be our neighbor. There’s lots of traffic. Lots of people that live within this corridor. So there’s plenty of opportunity for business here.”

The idea of the effort started last summer but really took off about six months ago.

The group will host their first project on May 11. 

It will be a public clean up to span the corridor. Volunteers are asked to gather at 8 a.m. at the Illinois Iowa Center for Independent Living before heading out. Supplies will be provided.