Davenport Mayor Mike Matson says he remembers as a younger man when the city’s riverfront was not a great place to visit. “Years ago, there was a dump burning downtown,” he said.
The dump fire is long gone, and the city now has plans for $24 million in riverfront improvements over the next few years.
Those plans got a big shot in the arm Friday, Dec. 2, when the State of Iowa announced the city and the Figge Art Museum have been selected for $9.6 million in grant funding through the Iowa Economic Development Authority’s (IEDA) Destination Iowa Creative Placemaking Fund for a series of signature projects along the riverfront.
The money will help spur Davenport’s riverfront development plan called the Main Street Landing as well as an enhanced lighting on the Davenport Skybridge and a massive lighting project on the outside of the Figge Art Museum.
If all goes according to plan, next year will be a “year of design” with the projects to be completed in the next couple of years, said Clay Merritt, the city’s assistant public works director.
“These are going to be truly spectacular. You won’t see this anywhere else in Iowa,” he said during a news conference at the Davenport Police Station to announce the grant money.
The Figge Art Museum lighting project will cost about $1.6 million and include about 1,000 LED programmable lights on the entire outside of the building. Those lights will be able to produce millions of different colors and many designs, said Michelle Hargrave, the Figge’s executive director and CEO.
“It’s going to be an unforgettable experience at night. … This is going to be a jewel for the community and a place of pride,” she added.
Ms. Hargrave told the QCBJ that planning for the light project has just begun. She hopes the project will be completed by no later than 2025.
The planned downtown improvements at Main Street Landing include:
- Installation of a high-intensity, multi-generational experience zone that will include a signature tower structure, slides, climbing assets, an interactive water feature, and a space for winter activities.
- Creation of a passive activity zone near Lock and Dam 15 that highlights the existing amphi-theater and scenic views.
- Additions such as a new restroom facility, colorful LED lighting, shade structures, seating, and unique swing elements.
- Installation of a railroad quiet zone that will stretch from Marquette to Mound streets to reduce noise pollution and increase safety throughout the downtown riverfront.
- Construction of a pedestrian bridge that allows continuous and safe access over the Canadian Pacific rail line.
- Renovation and upgrade of the skybridge’s LED lighting system.
- Installation of artistic LED programmable lighting on the exterior of the Figge Art Museum that will consist of over 3,000 feet of colorful fixtures.
Construction of the projects is expected to begin in the summer of 2024 and be completed in the spring of 2026.
Several city and business officials at Friday’s news conference pointed out that the riverfront projects will accomplish many goals. They will be points of community pride, attract more visitors to the region and will help spur more economic development.
“This is a huge win for the City of Davenport and the Quad Cities region,” said Dave Herrell, president and CEO of Visit Quad Cities, in a statement. “This project will serve as a catalyst to further our goal of making the Quad Cities an internationally recognized, must-experience riverfront destination.”
Mr. Matson added that in a few years, people will get to look at the updated riverfront and its many new attractions and say: “That’s Davenport, Iowa. That’s the cool place.”