The City of Rock Island is accepting requests for proposals (RFP) to rehabilitate Douglas Park’s historic but dilapidated Firehouse No. 5, which had appeared destined for demolition. The city chose to seek RFPs for the 901 18th Ave. station on Wednesday, March 8, as a result of the decision by aldermen on Monday, Feb. 13, […]
Already a subscriber? Log in
- Unparalleled business coverage of the Iowa City / Cedar Rapids corridor.
- Immediate access to subscriber-only content on our website.
- 52 issues per year delivered digitally, in print or both.
- Support locally owned and operated journalism.
The City of Rock Island is accepting requests for proposals (RFP) to rehabilitate Douglas Park’s historic but dilapidated Firehouse No. 5, which had appeared destined for demolition. The city chose to seek RFPs for the 901 18th Ave. station on Wednesday, March 8, as a result of the decision by aldermen on Monday, Feb. 13, to table approval of a demolition contract with Valley Construction for the century-old building. For several years, city staff has recommended demolition of the building that sits next to Douglas Park – the historic site of the first NFL football game on Sept. 26, 1920 – more than once due to its deteriorating condition and the high price tag attached to plans to save it. Since Rock Island is under the gun to use federal funding that was provided for the firehouse project, the RFP process is likely to be preservationists' last, best Hail Mary shot, according to Miles Brainard, the city’s community and economic development director. Toward that end, the city is seeking qualified developers or historic preservation professionals to rehabilitate the historic prairie-style brick structure, built in 1915, and return it to productive use. The firehouse, which the state has said is qualified for the National Register of Historic Places, was in service as a fire station until the 1970s. It was later used as storage. Applicants must demonstrate in their RFPs their financial capacity to complete the rehabilitation and the successful bidder will enter into a development agreement with Rock Island to undertake rehabilitation without any financial assistance from the city. Upon the successful completion of the project, the city would convey the property to the developer for $1. A walk-through of the property is required prior to submission of an RFP. Submission deadline is 11 a.m., Friday, March 31, in person or by mail to the Community and Economic Development Department, 1528 3rd Ave., Rock Island, IL 61201. The RFP process also requires bidders to describe their qualifications and their experience with similar projects, identify the personnel who would be working on the project and provide at least three references with experience with similar relevant projects from the past five years. Preservationists have been trying off and on since 2017 to save the building and potential uses included an African American Museum, a youth center, and a museum to commemorate the park’s place in history as the host of the first NFL game. Tours were conducted, but no takers materialized. The problem was twofold: a lack of funding and the high cost of doing the renovations necessary to comply with State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) guidelines. When SHPO approved the work the city planned to do to preserve the structure, the agency also also “made clear under their conditional terms of approval that historically significant elements like the clay tile roof and wood frame windows need to be fully restored to their original condition or, if missing, recreated,” Mr. Brainard said last month. “While the Parks & Recreation Department continued to show the building to prospective partners who wanted to rehabilitate it, none had the financial wherewithal,” he added. The building was declared blighted and seemed on a course for demolition. Then came COVID-19 and staff departures changes which delayed any movement on the firehouse. That changed when re-staffed and re-energized Community and Economic Development and Rock Island Parks departments revisited the issue. The issue came to a head last month when the city was poised to enter into a contract for up to $79,750 with Valley Construction to demolish Fire Station 5, but aldermen instead tabled it until the council’s May 22 meeting. Fifth Ward Alderman Dylan Parker told the QCBJ after that unanimous vote, “My opposition is rooted in the city having not followed a public process to identify potential buyers or adaptive reuse for the fire station – namely via a request for proposals (RFP) process.” While private tours with potential buyers and developers may have been conducted, Mr. Parker said, “a public RFP process was never undertaken.” That changed with the city’s March 8 announcement that RFPs are now being accepted. The quick March 31 turnaround for submission was by design and necessary. When aldermen delayed demolition, city staff warned that the Community Development Block Grant funding for the demolition was approved in the program year 2019. Mr. Brainard said then that if the city hits the four-year mark without spending any of the money on the firehouse this spring, the city’s CDBG representative warned that Rock Island should return it. “If the funds are returned, the next opportunity for CDBG funding to be allocated for the demolition would be in the 2024 Annual Action Plan,” Mr. Brainard added. That plan would be developed in Spring 2024 and the project couldn’t take place until Fall 2024.