Archive for September, 2014

L&D15 – New Business

Posted in Projects with tags , , , , on September 29, 2014 by Tory Brecht

Doing-it-in-Davenport_Black

520 W. 2nd Street

Status: November Opening
Job Created: TBD

 

Exterior of L&D 15

 

Since moving from Brooklyn to Davenport a little more than a year ago, David Balluff and Lopeti Etu have searched long and hard to find the perfect space for their eclectic hand-made clothing and hat (and other stuff) store.

A brief residency in cramped quarters at Bucktown came to an end awhile ago, and the pair have been busy fulfilling mail order requests in their apartment since. But they finally found what they were looking for in The Market building on W. 2nd Street.

“It’s a great location for us, with gigantic windows and close to the Farmers’ Market, the Figge, the bike trail and other things going on down here,” said Balluff, who manufactures organic cotton and bamboo silkscreen shirts, dresses, sarongs, onsies, tank tops and other fine products under the name General Assembly.

His partner, Lopeti Etu, creates hand-blocked hats of all sorts, under the brand Lopeti Etu Millinery.

Both of their complete lines of products, as well as those of other local and far-flung original designers, will be housed at the new L&D 15 limited edition clothing, accessories and housewares shop.

Balluff said the fact the building was known as the New York Hat Company in the 1910s, made it seem like the perfect home for he and Lopeti’s vision.

“We’re bringing back not only hat manufacturing, but we were recently in New York ourselves,” he said.

Brand new windows help spruce up L&D 15

Brand new windows help spruce up L&D 15

Etu and Balluff plan to reach out to artists and designers both locally and internationally, including open calls for artists/makers and other creatives to present new products. That will happen closer to the studio’s opening.

“We’re trying to build something that gives back to the community,” Balluff said. “Our target market isn’t young or old, rich or poor. It’s people who appreciate things made by hand.”

He calls this “retail 2.0” – meaning L&D 15 won’t be just a place to shop, but a living workshop and community gathering space.

Part of their interior work that includes renovating floors and painting. They are using lumber from Davenport Public Works’ urban wood utilization program. They plan to open sometime in November.

 

 

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Riverwatch Place – New Building Development

Posted in Projects with tags , , , , , on September 26, 2014 by Tory Brecht

Riverwatch building from 4th Street

 

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227 LeClaire Street
Total Investment: $25 million (Est.)
Total Public Investment:TBD – TIF reimbursement/Potential Brownfield Grant
Jobs Created: TBD
Status: Demo in December of existing hotel building, construction in 2015

Two well-known developers and one of the Quad-Cities largest construction firms are teaming up to replace one of Davenport’s worst eyesores with a gleaming new downtown development.

Riverwatch Place, a six-story mixed-use office and retail development, is the name of the winning proposal for replacement of the dilapidated Howard Johnson’s property at the central city’s eastern gateway. The developers are Bush Construction and Ruhl Commercial Investors, BLDD Architects.

The empty  hotel on the site has sat empty since 2009, earning it the dubious distinction of being one of downtown’s most notorious blighted properties. By contrast, the glass-encased new building will contain 60,000 square-feet, with most dedicated to Class A office space. Plans also call for a sixth-floor restaurant reminiscent of the old Davenport Club, and other retail and/or restaurant uses on the first floor.

Property owner Demolition Davenport, through the Downtown Davenport Partnership, will continue to be the steward of the property until a final closing.

The developers intend to demolish the building by the end of the year, with their sights set on spring or summer construction. City staff is working on some property consolidation and a draft economic development agreement. Bruce Berger, Davenport’s Community Planning & Economic Development Director, said the major incentive used will likely be a Tax Increment Financing reimbursement of the increased assessed value of the site, at a percentage to be determined.

 

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Kyle Carter of the Downtown Partnership said the time is ripe for new office development downtown. 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.

“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.”

Berger said completion of both this project and the pending Dock at Davenport project will breathe new life into downtown’s east side.

“Adding amenities like new restaurants as well as Class A office space show that downtown Davenport is vibrant and a great place to do business,” Berger said. “It makes our job of attracting new investment and new businesses easier.”

Riverwatch place viewed from the river

Grace Engineered Products/Letter2Word – Business Expansion

Posted in Projects with tags , , , , , , on September 3, 2014 by Tory Brecht

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5001 Tremont Ave. and 1515 E. Kimberly Road
Total Investment: $2.7 million
Total Public Investment:$30,000 IEDC High Quality Jobs Program
Jobs Created: 11-15 (Grace) 3-5 (Letter2Word)
Status: Expansion in progress

 

GraceExterior2

Philip Allen is a serial entrepreneur who grew Grace Engineered Products Inc. from a virtual one-man operation into a global manufacturer of electrical safety devices employing 25 here in Davenport. Now, he plans to not only expand that business and add up to 15 new employees, but is helping nurture a start-up called Letter2Word.

Grace is a worldwide leader in electrical safety products, especially the GracePort panel interface connectors, which allow users to either service an electrical cabinet without opening its panels or at least determine whether it is safe to open from the outside. Allen pioneered the application of Safeside voltage indicators into lock-out, tag-out procedures, which help improve worker safety while working on electrical equipment. Customers of this Davenport-based company include such giants as Ford Motor Co., Procter & Gamble and Kimberly Clark.

The company started in 1993, when Allen and some associates were working on a friction welder retrofit project at John Deere. Work was needed on a relatively dangerous machine with an interface in the front and an electrical panel with a 250 horsepower drive and a 400 amp main feed  inconveniently located at the rear. The only way to access the machine for maintenance was to open the doors, but the maintenance supervisor understood this caused a potential hazard.

“The supervisor insisted they keep the door closed,” said Allen. “The end result was the panel interface connector, which would become an industry standard.”

Now, the company sells all over the world.

“We just got an order for 40 units from Italy and another large order for Australia.” About 20 percent of the company’s product is exported, about half of it to Canada. This growth, both internationally and domestically, drove the decision to expand. Allen has purchased a building at 1515 E. Kimberly Road, which will house a mix of expanded Grace operations as well as the new and growing Letter2Word operations. The Iowa Economic Development Association board awarded the company $30,000 in direct financial assistance and tax benefits through its High Quality Jobs Program, due to the increase in employment that will result from the expansion.

 

Advanced manufacturing laser cutting machines allow Grace to make thousands of different customized products

Advanced manufacturing laser cutting machines allow Grace to make thousands of different customized products

Grace Engineered Product’s unique process – Allen holds several U.S. and international patents for thru-panel electrical safety devices – allow it to mass produce customized products.

“We can get a specific order in one day, even with a specialized logo, and have it out the door the following day in most cases,” Allen said.

The 15 or so new employees he hopes to add later this fall will come into a workplace that values employee engagement. It’s a pet-friendly office, and several dogs can be seen wandering around at any given time. There is a large, warmly decorated break room and the factory floor and inventory bay are bright, clean and neat. To qualify for the IEDC incentives, starting wages start at $17.47 an hour and include full health benefits.

Allen said he chose to expand in Davenport both because of convenience and because of its outstanding workforce.

“We have good, hardworking people who show up on time, do their jobs and don’t quit,” he said. “The city was also very responsive and helped us work with the state.”

Another reason space was getting tight was due to the growth of Letter2Word, a startup home and business design and decor company co-founded by Allen’s wife Jane, her friend Sally Dailey and Dailey’s daughter Shannon Evans. The company creates  hand-painted words and phrases that can be hung indoors or outdoors to share unique messages. The letters are created on the same precision cutting machines that Grace uses for its products, making the businesses perfect for co-existing.

L2Word

Sally said the company has already secured several large accounts, and will need to add 3 to 5 new employees at the new location on Kimberly Avenue to meet the demand for product delivered this spring.

“We have just had such a great working relationship with Phil and his staff,” she said. “He calls it cross-pollination of  business and it really seems to work.”

Allen said he is an entrepreneur at heart who loves innovation, so stand by for more business ventures in Davenport going forward.