After months of lengthy roundtable discussion, the citizens of Davenport and Rock Island were rewarded with the final draft of the River Vision plan. This $250,000 dream for drawing the two cities more closely together was co-sponsored by the two cities and drawn up by the Massachusetts consulting firm of Hargreaves Associates. At no time during the work sessions was the possibility of a casino-feeding hotel on the riverfront brought up for discussion. Furthermore, it was only mentioned at the final presentation in response to a question from the audience.

I would like to present the negative side of this riverside-hotel concept espoused by downtown Davenport leaders and executives of the Isle of Capri.

Davenport has the most open and exposed Mississippi riverfront. This is mainly because the citizens of Davenport own the lion's share of this uniquely priceless property. For this reason, over the years, the city has been able to develop this property without the hassle of buying up valuable riverfront land.

For the most part riverfront property has been returned to the citizens as riverfront green space filled with parks, bike and walking paths, fountains, scenic rest shelters, observation areas, and other public treasures. After 30 years of bitter battle, another parcel, most of what now is called the East Industrial Site, will be vacated by the present heavy-industry tenants. This potentially adds another stunning segment to riverfront green space.

Why riverfront green space? Esthetics and improved quality of life for those living here are two very good reasons. Offering a singularly unique condominium setting with breathtaking vistas of the Quad Cities is another.

One vitally important subject the Hargreaves study did not address is the viability of the Davenport downtown through the addition of people permanently living there. Downtowns need people who live there permanently, to make this viability become reality - people raising their families, buying groceries there, and constantly populating the downtown streets and enjoying recreational activities in the riverfront parks. A new casino hotel will not add one permanent resident to downtown Davenport.

There is an alternative plan that was completely overlooked by Hargreaves Associates. It would make use of a practically vacant area of land starting at the confluence of Third and Fourth streets to the east, running to Iowa Street to the west and from Fourth Street north to Sixth Street. The big activity there right now is the conversion of several large warehouses bordering this area into street-level shops and loft condominiums. If this entire tract of land were to be developed into tiered condominiums, each with a magnificent view of the Mississippi River and Arsenal Island, with a pedestrian overpass to the riverfront parkway at the confluence of Third and Fourth streets, it would result in a permanent downtown population. Other ventures would follow. Success brings success.

Times are changing. The young and older people of today are very much into condo living. Add the other amenities our new downtown is creating and I believe this catalyst would stimulate the new life our downtown requires for success. Consider the draws already in place: the new John O'Donnell Stadium, the Figge Art Museum, the River Music Experience, lighted Centennial bridge and roller dams, and bi-state riverfront bike and walking paths connected by the Government Bridge, to name a few.

Of course this costs money. But so does building a new hotel on the riverfront. While the Isle of Capri would shoulder the cost of construction of the hotel, Davenport will be underwriting the cost of re-routing the interceptor sewer presently under this property. In the wake of the new hotel construction, what is to become of the two existing hotels? Neither of these hotels is booked solidly on a regular basis. If they do not survive, these vacant buildings will add to that which none of us wants: disfigurement of our downtown. Abandoned buildings never look good and doubly so for the Blackhawk Hotel adjacent to and emphasizing the importance of the RiverCenter convention axis.

I ask our leaders to take a look at this diamond in the rough, a diamond that can potentially bring more money into the city coffers than a new unneeded hotel. This visionary project could potentially serve to leverage the Vision Iowa grant for Davenport.

R. Josef Hofmann, M.D.,
Former Commissioner,
Davenport Levee Improvement Commission

Hotel Separate from River Vision

There has been a lot of misunderstanding regarding a Davenport riverfront hotel, and how it may or may not relate to the River Vision plan now under consideration. I'd like to clear up this confusion, and I'll start with something most everyone I know agrees on: Davenport's riverfront is our greatest asset.

Davenport's unique relationship to the nation's greatest river was the starting point for the River Vision planning. It was an idea that was embraced by a wide range of stakeholders including our partners in Rock Island. The planning process reached out to hundreds of people generating over a thousand ideas and comments, and has resulted in a River Vision plan that has been described as "masterful." The report has already been approved by its steering committee, the City of Rock Island, and Scott County. In Davenport, it is presently under review by our Levee and Plan & Zone commissions.

Standing in the way of this transformation, however, is a bit of confusion - whether the River Vision plan includes a riverfront hotel. Let me be clear: The River Vision plan does not include a hotel. It does not mandate, require, or by itself permit a hotel to be contracted on our riverfront. The River Vision report is neutral on a riverfront hotel. It mentions pros and cons of riverfront commercial activity (perhaps including a hotel) and offers design guidance if the city is ever presented with a hotel for consideration. Whether our commercial levee ever has a hotel is a completely separate decision. It is a decision that will require considerable community input and deliberate review by the city council, among others.

It is a decision that would also require an actual proposal to review. The city does not have any such proposal. The Isle of Capri has not released plans for review. All we really have is two speculative revenue projections - one projecting $4.4 million in added city revenue over 10 years and another projecting $7.8 million in added city revenue. While adding and diversifying revenue sources is an important topic for any municipal official, money will not unduly influence any hotel decision.

The River Vision report gets it exactly right: Davenport's riverfront is loved. It is special. It deserves to be treated with care. My own view is that the status quo is not acceptable: The acres of parking, inability to stroll along the river's edge near the casino, and existing sound and sight pollution should be improved. Centennial Park should be a real park, not gravel and dirt. Crescent Park should be transformed from inaccessible landfill to an environmental preserve, featuring a dramatic vista and outdoor amphitheater. (If it's called the Buffalo Bill Amphitheater, so much the better.) Davenport should work together with Rock Island and the county on these strategic projects, which will better position our region and cities for the future.

The River Vision plan says as much, and I look forward to plan approval and getting started on the wonderful ideas for improving our riverfronts.

Charlie Brooke, Mayor

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