After a slow start, a grand vision is coming into focus for redeveloping the large area created on Moline’s riverfront by the new Interstate 74 Bridge and demolition of the old green bridge. The broad outline of a redevelopment plan for the large, former manufacturing corridor under, in and around the new bridge has been […]
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After a slow start, a grand vision is coming into focus for redeveloping the large area created on Moline’s riverfront by the new Interstate 74 Bridge and demolition of the old green bridge.
The broad outline of a redevelopment plan for the large, former manufacturing corridor under, in and around the new bridge has been years in the making. The planning process also was slowed by COVID-19 and an exodus of key top city staff.
Now that planning is back on track, however, it still is likely to be some time before Quad Citians will see many of the ambitious projects being envisioned for the area, development leaders caution.
In the end, however, they expect the community’s patience to be rewarded with a year-round redevelopment featuring one-of-a-kind elements that will make Moline’s riverfront stand alone. Among them, for example, are a skatepark and pump track nestled under the new bridge; a boat-up theater on the water; a rooftop restaurant and arts center in the old Spiegel building; a Great River Park and bike trail; and a newly created Mill Street Basin water feature crowded with shops, kiosks and attractions.
Those projects are part of an Interstate 74 Corridor Redevelopment Plan centered on four concepts:
- Mill Town Basin.
- Great River Park.
- Heart of the Arts development, and its anchor, the old Spiegel Building.
- Residential housing.
On Jan. 18, a Moline City Council roundtable presented by Renew Moline President and CEO Alexandra Elias was held to provide an overview and get council direction regarding what Moline City Administrator Bob Vitas has called “a very large and complex redevelopment opportunity.”
With rare exception, aldermen supported the major components outlined in the ambitious plan being developed to transform the large piece of prime Mississippi riverfront.
“The placement of the new I-74 bridge and the demolition of the old one gives the city a rare opportunity to recreate its ‘front porch’ — which many of us consider a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Ms. Elias told the QCBJ.
“We’re trying to use placemaking as an attraction to the community and an attraction to the region,” she added.
The area to be redeveloped roughly stretches from Moline’s Seventh Avenue to the Mississippi River between 18th and 23rd streets. The area east of 23rd Street also is a secondary development area, according to Liz Nolte, Renew Moline’s operations and communications director.
The city worked with a nonprofit community planning agency and the public to create the plan currently on the table.
Now, “the Urban Land Institute gave some inspirational concepts through its advisory panel, the public weighed in on those ideas, and with the endorsement of mayor and council in the work session, the work of turning those concepts into real projects begins,” Ms. Elias added.
Much of the project management work that comes next “is largely invisible to the public, and involves the myriad tasks necessary to implement such significant physical change in our urban environment,” Ms. Elias said. “As we begin to refine project concepts (how big should a skate park be? How much parking does it need? How does it connect to the adjacent community to allow people to walk, bike or skate to it?) there are many questions that are evaluated, feedback solicited.”
That feedback will be presented to the mayor and council for approval, design and funding; “all the things any project would need to be built. Some of these are more complex, more expensive and thus, will take longer,” she said.
For example, Moline’s Mr. Vitas told the QCBJ before the Jan. 18 workshop, “We know that property acquisition is going to be part of the project. The city is working with IDOT (Illinois Department of Transportation) to assess properties for acquisition by the city as well as by John Deere and Heritage Church, which both will also acquire property as a result of the IDOT right-of-way shifting to the east.”
Throughout the journey ahead, Ms. Elias said, “We hope the community stays interested, because as these ideas are refined there will very likely be additional opportunities to share opinions and ideas. We have already received some great ideas from the community, and it’s entirely possible that one or more of those will become a reality.”
That kind of public buy-in will continue to be critical going forward, area leaders say.
“From a Visit Quad Cities perspective, the work that was done by the Urban League Institute and Renew Moline is a watershed opportunity for Moline and the entire downtown corridor to really rethink and reimagine the riverfront and Moline’s connection to it,” said Dave Herrell, the tourism bureau’s president and CEO.
“I was thrilled to see the ideas and the thoughts that came of the process and we were involved with that,” said Mr. Herrell, whose office is mere blocks from the proposed redevelopment area.. “I think the fact that Moline is engaging their citizenry and being incredibly transparent with where they want to go and how they achieve this new kind of Moline 3.0 is exciting.”
“There are not very many communities that I know of that have this chance to rethink their riverfront from a regional perspective,” he said.
Now, however, “we’ve got to make it happen,” he said. That means “making strategic investments” and “making sure the right players are at the table.” It also requires community support and excitement from the residents of Moline, Mr. Herrell said.
Aldermen polled during the workshop were excited by nearly all of the parts of a plan they said will help set Moline’s riverfront apart from others in the Quad-Cities. For example, 4th Ward Alderman Matt Timion was high on the ambitious Mill Town Basin project. “I really like this because nobody else is doing this in the Quad-Cities,” he said.
Only a splashy, proposed giant waterspout was widely rejected, in large part, because of challenges created by frigid Midwest winters and because it would be difficult to safely locate it in a navigable part of the river near a busy shoreline.
Many of the most spectacular features aldermen did preliminarily endorse grew out of the challenges created by the construction of the new bridge. For example, planners had to be mindful of reconnecting the riverfront to the city’s historic 5th Avenue downtown core that was bypassed entirely by the new bridge design, Ms. Elias said.
The 200-acre Great River Park, which got the aldermen’s go-ahead also will reclaim and reimagine a barren area left in the project’s wake by creating a welcoming year-round amenity and gathering area.
Then, there are the two prominent vestiges of the old bridge that will remain standing after the old green twin spans are toppled. Planners determined that the endangered mussels at the site would prevent two old bridge piers in the water from being demolished.
For 3rd Ward Alderman Mike Wendt, those columns are the perfect place to hang a large “sail,” which could serve as a screen that boaters can navigate up to to see movies or watch video of such things as concerts and local art performances.
Among the early projects the public is likely to see is the creation of Spring Street Park at Sixth and Seventh avenues where 21st Street was closed.
The skatepark and pump track, which won high marks from all but one alderman, also could be an earlier entry. According to Parkitect AG, the leading designer of pump tracks, “Besides being an innovative play park amenity trending in more and more public spaces, a pump track is a track for wheeled sports equipment that, when ridden properly, does not require pedaling or pushing, but a ‘pumping’ action to maintain momentum.”