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Moline Centre has a new manager and the downtown placemaking organization has a new home at 1506 River Drive under the umbrella of Renew Moline. Kirk Marske, a well-known Quad Cities radio producer, station manager and on-air personality, recently took on the revamped manager role under the leadership of Alexandra Elias, president and CEO of Renew, the award-winning, nonprofit economic development organization devoted to developing Moline. He was hired by Ms. Elias, easily approved by the Renew Moline Board and introduced in late January at a joint session of the pair of downtown Moline Special Service Area (SSA) boards. Those SSAs, under which businesses and property owners are taxed a special assessment to support district improvements and events, are a major funding source for Moline Centre. “I’m just super excited to have Kirk on board,” Ms. Elias told the QCBJ. “I think he is the perfect guy for the job. His passion for Moline really came out from the very first time I met him. And then I really appreciate his perspective on building those relationships which are critical to our downtown folks.” Ms. Elias added: “From Renew’s standpoint, our plan is that this partnership will make the whole greater than the sum of its parts. The overall goal is that when people are in downtown Moline we want them to feel like it’s a special place and it's a memorable place and it's a beloved place.” The latest switch in governance at Moline Centre, which was created to protect that downtown experience, is the fourth in its history. Moline Centre was created in 2010 as part of the National Main Street program to improve Moline’s downtown and central business districts. The City of Moline was responsible for the organization until 2013 when leaders opted to outsource the job to the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce. In 2019, Moline took that responsibility back and hired Geoff Manis as its Main Street Program manager. When Mr. Manis left the city’s employment in June to join Rouse Consulting Group as chief information officer, Moline officials began looking at options for managing Moline Centre. Ms. Elias asked the city to consider her organization because Moline Centre was not only a good fit for Renew, which is helping lead planning for the revamp of Moline’s Mississippi River front porch, but the contract also would provide it with a steady revenue stream. Mr. Manis left him with “some big shoes to fill,” Mr. Marske said of his predecessor – and the new job is a big one. Among Mr. Marske’s duties is serving as a liaison for those merchants and property owners; coordinating and implementing marketing plans; managing Moline Centre’s social media platforms; working with the SSA boards, city staff, merchants, partners and the community; organizing special events in partnership with Moline Centre merchants; and providing support to other events within the special service areas. Renew and Moline Centre’s relationship with those merchants and property owners also is essential in protecting and promoting the downtown brand and that sense of place, he and Ms. Elias said. “When we meet with the Moline merchants these are people who have all their skin in the game; they have made their life and their fortune and their business and they’re counting on us to support them and to make their experience of being downtown better,” she said. Protecting that experience is especially important in a competitive bistate region where there are very different incentives to entice developers to individual communities, Ms. Elias said. And it’s also why having the right location is so important to what Renew and Moline Centre plan to do. For example, Davenport’s 53rd Street corridor is bustling but it’s like most other large retail centers, Ms. Elias said. “I just don’t think there’s another experience like being downtown – any of our downtowns.” While he may not know the ins and outs of the job yet, Mr. Marske said he is happy to be working with Renew. “People asked me how my first day went and I said I felt like I’ve been working here for 10 years.” “I feel fortunate to be part of the Renew team and have the guidance of Alex because I have the skills and the experience to do the job,” he said. “(But) I haven't worked in this specific environment before, so she has the history, experience and knowledge of the world that I’m working in now.” Mr. Marske clearly has a deep respect for Moline Centre and Renew’s past as well as for Moline’s downtown history. His father was an architect whose office was across the street from the old downtown library in what is now the Axis Hotel and his stepfather owned CE Peterson Sons contractors, headquartered downtown. “Moline Centre is the oldest thing I’ve ever been put in charge of,” he told the QCBJ. “There’s a lot of history there and I don’t take that lightly. And as much history as there is, there’s also a lot of potential.” One of his top goals is to enhance that potential by spreading the word about what’s already there. “There's a lot to offer in Moline Centre,” he said. “I think a lot of people know some of the aspects. If you go down to a bar or restaurant downtown you might be familiar with that, but you might not know about the retail side of things; the shoe store, Floorcrafters.” He wants to make people aware of the downtown’s wide variety of resources “so if there are events that are happening near Moline Centre or on the edge of it, we get them to come to Fifth Avenue and the other places.” Mr. Marske also takes over the post as Renew Moline and city leaders seek to take advantage of the relocation – and demolition – of the old Interstate 74 bridge to create a new vision for the downtown, including all the vacant lots created by the massive project. He also hopes to focus on downtown housing and urban living. “As I've gotten older I’ve come to appreciate the convenience of living and working in the same area and living somewhere where so many entertainment options are close by,” he said. The area also has plenty going for it. For example, there’s the area’s clean, easy-to-use and plentiful public transportation system, which boasts a major MetroLINK downtown terminal known as Centre Station, which is Moline’s signature transfer hub. “If you live and work downtown, you can get to so many places that way,” Mr. Marske said. Ms. Elias also said that Moline’s downtown “is blessed” with the John Deere Pavilion, John Deere Commons and the rebranded Vibrant Arena at the Mark. “We have the big-ticket stuff in place,” she said, “and the partnership with Moline Centre really gives us the opportunity to pencil in more of those fine details.” She added: “From Renew’s standpoint or the board’s standpoint, that’s the thing that we see as the benefit of this new partnership.” So stay tuned, Ms. Elias said, there’s “more to come.”