Old auto parts store will become new community center

Local News

Organizers of a popular Friday night event held on the edge of Moline’s Floreciente neighborhood are transforming a former auto parts store into a community center.

Mercado on Fifth is converting the former Car Shop — a circa-1920s building located at 423 12 St., once known for selling high-performance auto parts nationwide — into a flexible space for the open-air market and other community events.

Owned by West Gateway Partners, the real estate/development company of Group O founder Bob Ontiveros, the building will be the first permanent fixture for Mercado and is among the many Floreciente redevelopment projects led by Ontiveros and Gateway Partners, including: the new Community Health Care clinic and refurbished Boys & Girls Club Teen Center, as well as the renovation of a Project NOW building that houses the Greater Quad Cities Hispanic Chamber.

The nearly $1 million renovation project is being funded by a $500,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economics Opportunity’s Office of Minority Empowerment, a $100,000 Transformation Grant secured in 2019 from the Quad Cities Community Foundation, in-kind services and additional grants, including: Moline Foundation, Scott County Regional Authority and Community Development Block Grant from the City of Moline.

Construction on the 6,300-square-foot building began in June and has created jobs for these local and Hispanic-owned businesses:

  • Contractors Ruben Guzman (masonry), Heritage Landscape, JL Brady, Pizano Electric, QC Fixit, QC Plumbing and Valley Construction.
  • Architect and engineer – Streamline Architects and J & M Engineering
  • Black Hawk college’s highway construction class – student interns will help with new sidewalks
  • Group O, Milan – provided a variety of logistical support for the building project

The Quad Cities Chamber explains the progress that has been made on the project so far and what they expect to be completed in the future.

“The interior demolition work has exposed giant bridge trusses, bearing the Clinton Bridge Works name, that have been painted a bright royal blue,” said the Chamber in a news release. “Inside the cavernous building, crews will install a catering kitchen, a bar, indoor restrooms, a stage that can double as a kid’s zone as well as heated concrete floors. They also will be cutting out windows and doors out of the thick concrete walls.”

Once finished, the center will be used for Mercado’s own activities, vendor events, educational workshops, community festivities and private rentals.

Mercado on Fifth’s president, Maria Ontiveros, co-founded Mercado on Fifth in 2016 with her grandfather, Bob Ontiveros. She says the new indoor space will allow the nonprofit to expand its vendor opportunities year-round, adding there will be no permanent vendors inside the center.

“This is for event-based programming,” said Maria. “Any vendor who comes down here has to be mobile.”

While there are still several months of construction and renovations ahead, the future community center has already started to take shape with amenities such as a spacious outdoor patio encircled by a large stone retaining wall, and a new brick pathway built above the below-grade patio that will serve as a dedicated food truck lane, complete with electricity hookups for food truck vendors.

“The new center will add capacity to our current summer events, and we won’t have to block off the street for smaller gatherings,” said Maria.

However, organizers say 5th Avenue will still be closed off during Mercado on Fifth events.

Since it began five years ago, Mercado’s weekly outdoor markets have grown from about 300 visitors per night to weekly crowds of nearly 2,000 in 2021.

Anamaria Rocha, who joined Mercado as director earlier this year, is still developing plans for the community center’s use.

“Right now, it’s like a blank canvas,” said Rocha. “But we definitely want to create our own programming during the week to bring people down here.”

Rocha envisions regular food truck days to attract visitors to the Floreciente neighborhood.

“This is going to be a 365-day-a-year opportunity for Mercado programming and an extension of its work,” said Chris Ontiveros. “We don’t know what the future holds, but we do know we have organic growth, and we can morph this space into whatever direction the business community and neighbors take us.”

The new community center is expected to open in March 2022 and already has its first event booked — an indoor performance by Jarobe Mexicano in a partnership between the Mercado and the Quad City Arts.

Learn more about the project here.

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