Archive for July, 2014

Old HoJo Site Moving Closer to Re-Development

Posted in Projects with tags , , , on July 24, 2014 by Tory Brecht
The old and abandoned Howard Johnsons hotel on LeClaire Street in Davenport

This downtown eyesore’s days are numbered

A wrecking ball will soon swing into the dilapidated walls of one of downtown Davenport’s worst eyesores, making way for what the Downtown Davenport Partnership anticipates will go from long-time nuisance to “iconic structure”.

Several developers are already anxious to pitch their ideas for the soon-to-open prime real estate at downtown’s eastern gateway, said Kyle Carter, Executive Director of the Downtown Davenport Partnership. The partnership, which used its resources to purchase the property for $210,000 and turn it over to local non-profit Demolition Davenport, is putting the final touches on a Request for Proposals geared to find the best use possible for the high-visibility parcel.

The empty Howard Johnson hotel on the site has sat empty since 2009, earning it the dubious distinction of being one of downtown’s most notorious blighted properties.

While multiple local developers have already expressed early interest, Carter said the RFPs will be distributed nationally, hopefully giving the Partnership a wide range of attractive options when picking a developer.

Downtown Partnership and City staff have a hiearchy of uses they’d like to see.  Number one is corporate office or Class A office space. The second choice is a mixed-use development with some Class A office combined with residential or commercial uses. The third and fourth choices are a business class hotel and market rate residential – either rental or owner occupied.

The former Clayton House Hotel (and Howard Johnsons) in its heyday

The former Clayton House Hotel (and Howard Johnson) in its heyday

 

Carter said the push for office development is driven by a few factors. For one, most of the downtown building stock is older, historic businesses which are often difficult and expensive to convert into modern office use. Secondly, while the massive increase in new downtown market rate apartments has been good for business, office space drives up demand for daytime retail and commercial uses even more.

“For one, much of the downtown office space is historic with narrow column spacing, making it functionally obsolete for certain styles of corporate office design,” Carter said. “New construction offers developers  a blank slate;  we have a real opportunity to add more variety to our commercial offerings downtown to suit users that are seeking more open space.”

The key is finding the right balance of uses downtown, Carter added.

“We’ll never be able to compete completely with greenfield office development because of cost. But we think we can find those companies that are the right fit; especially those that need young professionals who want to be in that urban environment.”

Bruce Berger, Director of Community Planning & Economic Development in Davenport, said having the Partnership and a non-profit like Demolition Davenport help assemble the property and prepare it is incredibly helpful. It takes out the fear of the unknown, especially unknown expenses, that can make developers uneasy and risk-averse, he said. Without spending any City of Davenport taxpayer money, the two entities have:

  • Completed environmental risk assessment reports
  • Solicited bids for demolition (the cost of which will borne by the developers)
  • Below-ground environmental and flood reports
  • Debris removal
  • Environmental mitigation (which will be underway this September)

The proposals that are received will be reviewed by the Downtown Davenport Partnership taskforce and ultimately voted upon by the Partnership’s Board of Directors. The following criteria will be used to determine the best developer:

  • Experience, Qualifications and Expertise
  • Preferred Use Factors
  • Proposed Costs/Thoughtfulness of Bid
  • Financial and Environmental Sustainability
  • Design Quality, Scale & Aesthetics (meets or exceeds City downtown design guidelines)
  • Thoroughness, and Responsiveness of Proposal

Carter expects the RFP to be issued this week with proposals due back Aug. 25. Interviews with finalists and the selection by the board would occur by the end of September.

Despite Flooding, Davenport is Open for Business

Posted in General Information, Uncategorized with tags , on July 2, 2014 by Tory Brecht

Signs indicate Pershing is closed, but open to business traffic

Front Street Brewery’s signature beer is called Raging River Ale.

The name is hitting a little close to home for the long-time Davenport business, which boasts two riverfront locations – one between Pershing and Perry streets on River Drive and the other in the riverfront Freight House building.

The muddy Mississippi may be knocking at the front door, but manager Jenny Ash says both locations are open and serving.

“It was a little slow at lunch today, probably because parking is hard to find,” she said. “But this flood is typical and manageable.”

Ash has worked at Front Street for 22 years and has been through seven major floods. Improvements in the city’s flood protection plan over the years have made them much easier to deal with than the deluge in 1993 that knocked the brewery out of business for an extended period.

“When we see the Hesco barriers going in, it’s very reassuring to us,” she said, as several patrons stepped in to order lunch and gawk at the rising waters just outside the large picture window out front.

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Downstream a bit, Ed Kraklio Jr. of Nostalgia Farms Deli said the lunch rush today was more like a trickle. Too many people don’t realize that despite River Drive being closed, you can still access businesses south of the road. Still, he’s pleased with the flood protection measures in place.

“We’re still prepping and getting ready for the weekend,” he said. “Although we will be closed on the 4th because they cancelled Red, White and Boom.”

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Michelle Magyar, one of the co-owners of Mid-American Glass on River Drive, said they are coping with this flood much better than the last major flood in 2011.

A recent $5 million expansion, with a new building on their site, allows them to ship out a new dock to the north, meaning they no longer need access from River Drive.

“We are an island, but it’s business as usual although it’s hectic,” she said. “The city helped us put this new building in and we can now get in without going through the water.”

Any business owner that needs assistance with flood fighting should contact Public Works at (563) 326-7923.