While the official groundbreakings for major construction projects in downtown Rock Island took place within seven weeks last fall, it’s the later one — which included a building demolition — that’s making much faster progress.

The pair are literally within a block of each other and the difference is night and day.

The YWCA of the Quad Cities had a groundbreaking ceremony for its new two-story, 48,900-square-foot facility Sept. 15, 2021 at 1702-1794 5th Avenue. But little has been done the vacant property since then. Bush Construction is the general contractor.

Several children took part in the ceremonial groundbreaking at the future YWCA site on Sept. 15, 2021.

“As you know, we are dealing with supply chain issues, delays and labor shortages,” YWCA president and CEO Julie Larson said Wednesday. “We made a few adjustments to the roof structure, which allowed us to receive the materials months earlier than the prior plan. However, this also impacted the piers for the facility and we are still waiting for the new shop plans to get on the contractor’s schedule.  This dictates when excavation and construction will begin, which will hopefully occur in the next few weeks.”

“As we Quad Citizens work to continue to advance the vision of Q2030, it is important to continue to build up ALL the Quad Cities,” Rob Woodall, the “YWCA is on the Move” Capital Campaign Co-Chair, said of the $9-million building project in September. “This project allows us to continue improvements in Rock Island in parallel with the new bridge in Bettendorf/Moline, as well as the continued development of downtown Davenport.”

The YWCA site will house a new two-story, 48,900-square-foot facility, replacing their current location at 229 16th St. (photo by Jonathan Turner).

“YWCA Quad Cities has a valuable mission related to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all,” he said. “In our opinion, this is exactly what the world needs more of right now, and it is critical for continuing to improve the social fabric of our bi-state community. This new facility will allow this great organization to enhance and expand its mission right where it is needed most, while acting as a beacon for Rock Island on its development journey into the future.”

Located just a few blocks from the YWCA current location (229 16th St.), the new $9-million facility will house a state-of-the-art child care center that will expand the organization’s capacity from 130 youth to 350; an Empowerment Center (including a STEAM lab); an Activity Center with a gymnasium; a full-service kitchen allowing community access; an Aquatic Center; an Administrative Suite; a high-tech Cardio Room, and a modern outdoor play yard.

The Rock Island Y posted a March 21 photo of young children enjoying the sunny first day of spring, watching construction workers on the planned new federal courthouse at 320 18th St., Rock Island.

Kids from the Rock Island YWCA on an outing to see work on the downtown Rock Island courthouse site, March 21, 2022.

Under the Facebook photo, one woman replied: “I’ll bet they would enjoy seeing the construction of the new Y even more.”

Progress at courthouse site

After more than five years of sitting empty, the long-awaited demolition of the old Bituminous Insurance (BITCO) building began Nov. 4, 2021 at 320 18th St. The site — overseen by general contractor Russell Construction, with demolition done by Valley Construction — is now clear for the home to a new $20-million federal courthouse.

The site for the new federal courthouse, 320 18th St., Rock Island, has been cleared (photo by Jonathan Turner).

“Today is a big day for all of Rock Island,” Liz Tallman, vice president of development services for the Development Association of Rock Island (DARI), said at the fall groundbreaking. “This demolition is a major milestone to make room for the new office building that will house government offices – including the United States District Court.”

“This transformational project will bring new jobs, new investment, expanded services and positively impact Rock Island for many years to come,” she said.

Bituminous (which formerly employed 150 people at its old headquarters on the site) formally changed its name to BITCO Insurance Companies in September 2014. At that time, the names of the company’s policy-issuing companies were changed to BITCO National Insurance Company and BITCO General Insurance Corporation.

Valley Construction did the four-month demolition of the courthouse site, with the vacant Argus building in the background at left (photo by Jonathan Turner).

In April 2016, BITCO’s corporate headquarters were relocated from Rock Island to a new $7.2-million building in Davenport, 3700 Market Square Circle (south of 53rd Street between Utica Ridge Road and I-74.

Today, BITCO provides specialized insurance services to unique industries at the heart of U.S. infrastructure, including transportation, construction, building contractors, forest products, wholesale, distribution, manufacturing, oil and gas extraction and more.

Russell Construction collaborated with the company in 2014 to design and build its new headquarters in Davenport. The downtown Rock Island site (across 4th Avenue from the vacant Rock Island Argus building) will be home for the U.S. District Court for the Central Illinois District, which left its old location two blocks away (322 16th St.) in October 2018, and operates out of the federal courthouse in downtown Davenport.

“It is definitely exciting to see progress being made on the site!” Amanda Wood, development manager for Russell, said by email Wednesday. “I don’t have much to share at this time but expect to have final renderings and an updated schedule next month.”

Valley Construction started demolition on the former BITCO headquarters at 320 18th St., Rock Island, in early November 2021 to make way for construction of a new federal courthouse.

Mayor Mike Thoms said Wednesday that many residents have asked him about the status of both construction projects.

“Everybody is excited about having them underway,” he said. “The progress we’ve seen with the federal courthouse moving right along — they filled the hole up, versus just dirt — that’s been very positive. It’s great to see that happen. There’s definitely a change in the landscape. For the Y, people have asked why it hasn’t started yet.”

Thoms said the YWCA construction costs came in a lot higher than they expected, and they’re having to do more fundraising. The city paid to have the water and sewer disconnected from the former Zimmerman Honda site, and earmarked $200,000 in TIF money for the Y project, he said.

The long-awaited courthouse construction not only will bring more employees and visitors downtown, but it’s hoped the new building will spur interest in redeveloping the 1925 Argus building, ideally for law offices and upper-floor residential, Thoms said.