There will be a new Carnegie hall in Moline, as Sound Conservatory is moving from one historic building to another, one town over.
After 16 months at the 1901 building at 1600 2nd Ave., Rock Island, the growing music store and school plans to open this Friday at the former 1903 Moline Public Library, 504 17th St., built mainly due to the generosity of steel magnate Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919).
Owner Andrzej Kozlowski said Tuesday the damage from the three-story Rock Island structure’s roof and water became so bad that joists became rotted black, and the building needs over $1 million in improvements.
The building owner YWCA didn’t do anything about it and said that Kozlowski was responsible for any building repairs.
“I was supposed to buy the building, but I’m not gonna buy a building that has this kind of deterioration,” he said Tuesday from the Moline library, which is being transformed for the music business. “They let a historic building get destroyed.”
YWCA Quad Cities president/CEO Julie Larson said that is not true.
The building was on contract to be purchased “as is” with all repairs and maintenance Kozlowski’s responsibility, she said. “He was fully aware of the repairs that were needed and was supposed to purchase the building last fall.
“We bent over backwards and paid 100% of the utilities for the first 12 months, which was his responsibility as outlined in the contract,” Larson said. “We also did not receive rent for about 10 of the 16 months he utilized the facility, and did not push him to pay, as we were trying to help him out.”
Kozlowski said Saturday that is not true, and he has the bank statements to prove his rent payments to the YWCA.
The major factor behind leaving Rock Island was political, he said earlier. “I don’t feel our tax dollars are being spent properly. There’s too much money being taken in taxes.”
“The city never reached back out to me on any of my requests for help,” he said of financial assistance. “Not a single person.”
Kozlowski wanted to get a list of other available downtown Rock Island properties, which he never got. He and his wife own a historic home in the Broadway Historic District and part of Sound Conservatory’s mission was to help revitalize downtown.
“I made the decision because I don’t want to give my tax dollars to a government that is mishandling the funds,” Kozlowski said. “They’ve got all these organizations that are supposed to be doing things and I don’t see anything happening.”
Rock Island community engagement manager Sarah Hayden said Tuesday his rental agreement required that he was responsible (and not the city) to make building repairs and maintenance.
“I never asked for a bailout. I asked for assistance and some guidance for resources to help us and no one ever reached back out nor did they extend any help,” Kozlowski responded about Rock Island.
“They can say all they want, but the number of businesses leaving Rock Island speaks for itself as to how unhelpful they are to business owners,” he added.
The new Rock Island Downtown Alliance is working with the city to fine-tune a $7.4-million capital improvement project in the core downtown area, which will bring major streetscaping and placemaking improvements in the historic district, primarily between 1st and 3rd avenues and 17th and 21st streets.
Kozlowski said there’s been much more positive growth in downtown Moline than downtown Rock Island. The former 1903 Carnegie library — closed since 2008 — was in far better shape than his former Rock Island building. Kozlowski estimated he put $60,000 in renovations into the ground floor of the former 1901 Illinois Theatre in downtown Rock Island.
Within three days of working with the city of Moline and Renew Moline, he said he got more support than during the year and a half he was in Rock Island. Sound Conservatory originally opened March 1, 2022 next to dphilms at 2235 3rd Ave., but outgrew the space within five months.
“Speaking to other business owners here, it gave me the feeling that taxes are being used better in this community,” Kozlowski said of Moline. “We got a great deal with the owner.”
“I didn’t feel we had a healthy future down there,” he said of Rock Island. “We’re rapidly growing and I didn’t feel like we should be in a space where there are obstacles that shouldn’t be there.”
“The city and its partners see every empty historic building as an opportunity,” Rock Island community and economic development director Miles Brainard said Tuesday by email. “Looking ahead, we hope to find a new purpose for the old Illinois Theater Building and get it all scrubbed up.
“The YWCA, which owns the building, will necessarily need to be a partner in that effort. We hope to work collaboratively with them to give new life to that space as part of our shared commitment to revitalizing both downtown and Rock Island as a whole,” he said.
Option to buy
Kozlowski is leasing the old Moline library with an option to purchase down the line. The Sound Conservatory ribbon-cutting is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 17, at 3 p.m. The first concert will be singer-songwriter Kas Shewell (KAS), who also works for Sound Conservatory, on Saturday, Nov. 18, at 7 p.m.
He has a total of 16,000 square feet of space on the first two levels, about 4,000 more than Rock Island’s main floor. The Moline first floor is the piano showroom, performance space, and retail store (with books, instruments and accessories) and upstairs will be teaching studios for the business’ 12 teachers (with nearly 300 students). The former Reher Art Gallery will be split into five rooms.
There are 12-foot-high ceilings and large windows on the second floor, which creates a more pleasant environment for staff and students, Kozlowski said. “It feels like a true school up there. That’s one of the things that drew me to wanting this building,” he said.
The large chandeliers also will come from Rock Island to Moline. The moving process started last Wednesday, and lessons have been ongoing in Rock Island.
“I want to make sure our business — with sales taxes and foot traffic — is actually being utilized by the government,” Kozlowski said. “We’re hoping to have a long, healthy future here in Moline.”
Deteriorating plaster on some walls is still to be replaced. Two teaching rooms are on the first floor.
He chose downtown in part since it’s a growing arts hub – with Vibrant Arena, Spotlight Theatre, the Black Box Theatre and soon-to-be studio of Ballet Quad Cities on 5th Avenue.
“We are so pleased to welcome the Sound Conservatory to our Moline Centre downtown district,” said Moline Mayor Sangeetha Rayapati. “Andrzej’s vision for this historic space is a wonderful complement to the other artistic businesses and organizations calling Moline’s downtown home. As the Sound Conservatory joins 5th Avenue’s Ballet Quad Cities School of Dance and The Black Box Theatre, and the nearby Spotlight Theatre, we are truly creating a Heart of the Arts District in an organic and meaningful way.”
Like with the Rock Island building, Kozlowski loves to restore historic structures. The former library has imposing two-story columns at its entrance, five fireplaces, a magnificent oak staircase and several original tin ceilings.
“Knowing where you come from helps you figure out where to go,” Kozlowski said. “Andrew Carnegie built close to 3,000 libraries across the world. This is an incredible example of historic architecture. It was an educational institution, being a library and I think what we’re doing helps continue that history of this building.”
“It’s an education through the arts,” he said. “I love the whole idea of preserving historical buildings. They’re not built like this anymore. You’re not going to get a new building like this that’s gonna have this life span. Of course, old buildings come with problems, but so do new buildings.”
Andrew Carnegie is most famous for building the world-renowned Carnegie Hall in New York City, which opened in 1891.
Sound Conservatory hosted several concerts in Rock Island by award-winning artists. KAS will perform in Moline Saturday at 7 p.m., and tickets are $10 (available HERE). There also will be a cash bar provided.
Drawing influence from both the punchiness of angst-filled women of the ‘90s such as Tori Amos and Fiona Apple and today’s Hayley Williams and the vulnerability in folk artists such as Tracy Chapman and Glen Hansard, KAS aims to create music that is as emotional as it is intricate, according to the event release.
Her songs explore topics of grief, femininity, and love— all soothed by a voice that never forgets to express the complexity of what it’s singing about.
For more information on Sound Conservatory, click HERE.