The Downtown Davenport Partnership (DDP) celebrated accomplishments of fiscal year 2023 (July 1, 2022 – June 30, 2023) during its annual meeting on July 18, calling attention to recently completed projects, future investments, new infrastructure, businesses grants, as well as turning the corner after the 324 Main disaster and managing spring flooding.
“With stewardship of property top of mind and hard lessons learned, now is the time to come together as a community to heal, inspire change and redouble our efforts to invest in the place we proudly call home, said DDP executive director Kyle Carter.
“This year was a year that was very unique. The tragedy that we experienced as a community at 324 Main is something we will remember forever and something we can learn a lot from,” he said Tuesday morning of the May 28 building collapse in the heart of downtown.
“The great thing about working here for 18 years is, I’ve gotten to look in the eyes of all the people in this room and see what stewardship really means. That means investment in not just the buildings, but the people inside it and I’ve seen millions of dollars in great care taken by the people sitting in this room today, to make sure everyone realizes that this (the building collapse) is the exception and not the rule.”
“I hope folks in this room are able to begin the community healing process, turn the page on a very difficult chapter of our community, that makes us a better version than we were before,” Carter said, noting the downtown’s recovery from the record-breaking 2019 flood.
“As always, this city has rallied when it needed to,” he said. Over $185,000 has been raised to help former tenants of 324 Main, including $100,000 from DDP for the 14 businesses that closed because of this.
“This just speaks to the generosity of the Quad Cities; this is who we are,” Carter said. “I think we should be very proud of this. While the work is not done, we still have one more fundraiser to go. The Community Foundation still has funds available for both businesses and residents and those are going to close pretty soon.”
Here are some of the FY 2023 successes discussed at DDP’s annual meeting, held in the Hotel Blackhawk’s Gold Room:
- In FY 2023, downtown Davenport saw more than $29 million invested into 13 completed projects with highlights including Blue Spruce Bakery, Capitol Theatre, Dam Tacos, Oh So Sweet by Tiphanie, RAYGUN and The Suites.
- In addition, 12 projects are under construction representing $69 million of additional investment with key projects including The Last Picture House, Bowstring Lofts, Bucktown Lofts, 3rd & Main Apartments, The Garrison, Federal Pointe Apartments, Hiller Building and Martin Luther King Park.
- 20 planned projects projected to yield $131 million are on the horizon in future years.
- Downtown assessed property values have increased from $109 million in 2010 to $205 million today.
- In all, there were 36 new, retained or expanded businesses downtown.
- Since 2000, more than $686 million has been invested in downtown Davenport.
Grant assistance & business ecosystem
- DDP approved business relief funding of $97,500 to 14 businesses directly impacted by the building collapse at 324 Main St.
- Entrepreneur Grants totaling $10,000 were awarded to three startups.
- Design/pre-development grants were awarded by DDP to three businesses in the amount of $7,500.
- In addition, DDP awarded $52,000 in façade improvement grants to seven properties which leveraged $264,000 in private investment.
- DDP also awarded $77,000 in commercial interior improvement grants to nine downtown businesses leveraging $340,000 in private investment.
- DDP announced that the Exterior & Structural Improvement Grant will double in FY 2024 from $50,000 to $100,000, with a total of $175,000 available in funding for FY 2024.
Livability & infrastructure
- Advocacy efforts to approve conversion of 3rd and 4th Streets into two-way roads proved successful. DDP has committed $700,000 to the $1.7 million project.
- The city of Davenport approved initial flood mitigation improvements planned for River Drive and Marquette Streets.
- The city’s successful Destination Iowa application will result in a $24 million place activation investment on the riverfront.
- The 2022 Alternating Currents Festival featured over 100 artistic performances, expanded to Rock Island, and generated an economic impact of $1.8 million.
- The Motor Row & Bucktown Historic District saw immense growth and has recovered from the 2019 flood damage with new construction, new businesses and more planned.
- Downtown Davenport’s western corridor saw continued investment with major plans for the former YMCA site moving forward as well as several property sales and developments.
- A new 3-year agreement was approved by the city of Davenport to continue DDP’s Cleaning Ambassador service downtown. Cleaning efforts yielded 735 cubic yards of litter removed, 384 graffiti tags removed and more calls for service in FY 2023.
- Downtown housing units reached a total of 1,706 this past year with seven key buildings under construction and 367 total units now under construction.
While the last 60 days have been very hard, the last 365 days have produced a lot of success, progress and joy for downtown, Carter said.
The DDP exists not only to improve downtown, but the entire city and community, he said, noting downtown has over 2,000 people who live there.
There 2,500 similar place management organizations around the country, and DDP is active in the International Downtown Association. The effort requires constant investment, Carter said.
“No matter how many jobs we create, no matter how much we work to fill those businesses, if this isn’t a place where people want to live in the first place, it doesn’t matter,” he said, noting downtown has to be a clean, attractive, livable place where people feel welcome, included and excited by.
“If downtown doesn’t look good, it is how people judge your community,” Carter said. “If it looks bad down here, it probably looks bad everywhere else, and never forget that.”
The DDP recently said goodbye to Jason Gilliland (who oversaw events and is running his business HIVE Event Consulting full-time), and hired Olivia Warren as new business engagement manager. That involves communication and marketing, working with DDP members and event management.
DDP manages events like Icestravaganza; Red, White and Boom and Alternating Currents (which is coming up Aug. 17-20).
“It’s turned into a massive animal,” Carter said of AC – which offers 100+ free events in music, film, art and comedy, at 30 venues, including a few in downtown Rock Island and Bettendorf. “This has the opportunity to be our regional calling card.”
“Someday, we hope it’s across the entire Quad Cities,” he said. “We love Bix, but we can party more than once a summer. This is a showcase of our talent, a showcase of our creativity. If somebody comes to this and has a great time, they’re more likely o live here, to visit here and work here. That’s the big idea.”
Carter thanked the DDP Cleaning Ambassadors for invaluable work. In the past year, they removed 735 cubic yards of garbage, 384 graffiti tags, and 27 gallons of dog waste, as well as spent 242 hours removing snow along curbs.
Property owners within downtown’s Self-Supporting Municipal Improvement District (SSMID) pay an extra tax to help fund DDP, which has an annual budget of about $1.4 million.
Though downtown represents just 1 percent of the city’s land area, it generates 4 percent of citywide tax revenue, that goes into everything, Carter said.
“Our population growth has been dramatically faster than the rest of the community over the last decade, and we have a very competitive hospitality market,” he said. “The amount of revenue that’s gonna be generated by 2032 is going to be gigantic and it’s a result of the partnership” between the public and private sectors.
The “long arc of progress” has been moving in the right direction, Carter said, noting 36 new, retained or expanded businesses downtown since last July. “That’s on top of COVID and two floods, by the way. We still managed to do that.”
Completed projects include the recently reopened Capitol Theatre (330 W. 3rd St.), which was 14 years in the making, he said. “That is an enormously important project, as far as getting the west side of downtown activated and alive, especially in the evening hours.”
“There’s been so much this year that has happened, that we’re excited about,” Carter said. “We’ve really upped this game this year.”
The DDP has doubled the amount of money available to help businesses make infrastructure and façade improvements, including pre-development, design and interior work. A total of $175,000 will be available and grant applications open on Aug. 15.
Carter said his favorite ribbon-cutting of the year was for the MLK Park at 5th and Brady streets. That area was a Black business corridor for Davenport, which has been erased, he said.
“We can celebrate and remember what was here,” Carter said of doing a survey of that Black history. “I think this this is going to redefine our history. I think Iowa’s history books will be literally changed by this study and it’s just the beginning.”
He’s also looking forward to the October opening of The Last Picture House (co-owned by filmmakers Scott Beck and Bryan Woods) at Iowa and 2nd streets.
“It’s unheard of to see a two-screen, indie movie theater open,” Carter said. “It’s going to be an amazing amenity on the corner of East Second Street.”
Other projects underway
Downtown Davenport’s largest apartment building, Federal Pointe, is under construction at 450 LeClaire St., to encompass 180 units. And new apartments are finally under construction in the former Bucktown Center for the Arts (225 E. 2nd St., to include ground-floor commercial), Carter said.
Rodney Blackwell (Financial District Properties) is developing new apartments at 3rd and Main (next to Boozie’s), across the street from where 324 Main was. Nearby, in the Common Chord building at 2nd and Main, Carter is excited about a new restaurant going in (The Garrison) in late August, where Woodfire Grill and tacobar previously had been.
Carter said there’s a “major, multi-million-dollar, multi-story” project planned for the former YMCA site on the 600 block of West 2nd Street. “It’s a spectacular project; the YMCA did a great job of managing that, the transfer basically into private hands and we can’t wait to see what happens there,” he said.
The Ground Transportation Center site (at 2nd and Harrison, co-owned by the city and Eastern Iowa Community College District) is ripe for development, Carter said.
“There is nothing concrete with that, but it’s the obvious missing tooth in western development,” he said. “There’s no shortage of interest in that site.”
Downtown went through the seventh-highest flood ever this past spring, “and you would never know it happened,” Carter said. “This just proves our model isn’t crazy and folks have continued to invest here.”
“There are lot of things we learned in 2019, and this is a good example of how far we’ve come,” he said of flood response.
One of the most impressive projects to come along in 20 years is the Destination Iowa-funded $24-million Main Street Landing, which includes a new riverfront park and multi-colored lighting of the Figge Art Museum.
“It’s going to transform and activate the riverfront,” Carter said. There will be a railroad quiet zone in the area and a pedestrian overpass where people can safely go over the tracks, he said.
“This is the kind of stuff that real cities are made of,” Carter said. “These are the kind of things that frankly make you give a damn that you live here. Here is flood mitigation involved in this and it will work. This is one of the biggest things that came out of this year, and my favorite part is it’s gonna glow on the riverfront in the evening.”
The Figge “will be the shining diamond” to downtown, lit by Leo Villareal, an artist who lit one of the most famous bridges in San Francisco, the Bay Bridge.
Early 2025 is when the four-story Figge (at 225 W. 2nd St.) hopes to have its long-planned $4-million LED lighting project completed.
In the past year, East 2nd Street got resurfaced and new sidewalks, and 3rd and Brady will get new streetscaping, including new sidewalks and flower baskets.
One cool project coming to the Motor Row area along East 2nd will be installation of iron archways, and lighting in the alleys, along Emerson Place. New murals will be painted during Alternating Currents on the south side of 221 E. 2nd, to help transform the alley.
Carter praised the plethora of other public art downtown, from Quad City Arts and private exterior murals at Armored Gardens and Devon’s Complaint Dept. “We want to invest more in art,” he said.
Carter was relieved to have the city finally approve conversion of the one-way 3rd and 4th streets to two-way, which will take place in the next year.
“This is a goal we’ve had for over 20 years,” he said. “There have been studies after studies after studies. I sincerely thank the aldermen who supported this, as well as the mayor. I’m pleased the community at large was able to make a decision.”
“I’m confident this is going to be a net positive for this downtown,” Carter said. “It will help retail development. It’ll help people who are unfamiliar with this community get around better. It’s gonna make things more efficient for people.”
The city will do the conversion after resurfacing 3rd and 4th from Telegraph to Harrison, and the two ways will go from Marquette to the Quad-City Times building.
Turning the corner
“This is really an inflection point for us, a turning of the corner,” Carter said of all the momentum that’s been built downtown. “We’re going to have to do it with intentionality. We’re gonna have to do it with a zeal that maybe we’re not accustomed to. We’re a little slow to change sometimes, but I don’t think we can afford that anymore.”
“Downtown is in a really unique place right now,” he said.
Looking ahead to the future, DDP is focused on three key factors for sustained prosperity: increasing downtown population, expanding hospitality and retail spending, and promoting real estate and small business development.
“The fact of the matter is, it takes a village,” Carter said, crediting the DDP staff. “We do it because we care. We take the stewardship of your money really seriously. We know it’s not our money.”
To learn more about DDP, visit its website HERE.