RiverStone donation to give new life to former JCPenney store

RiverStone Group has donated its former headquarters at 1701 Fifth Ave. to Renew Moline, in the hopes of redeveloping the old downtown JCPenney store.

The company, a leading producer of aggregates in the Midwest, said it donated the site to the economic development organization to spur new life and economic development opportunities for the property and downtown Moline.

“The RiverStone Group has been an integral part of Renew Moline and downtown redevelopment for many years, and we are thrilled with this tremendous donation,” Renew Moline’s Executive Director Alexandra Elias said. “On behalf of the Renew Moline Board of Directors and staff I want to acknowledge the generosity of the Ellis family in their contribution to the community. “

This photo shows the JCPenney store at 1701 Fifth Ave., Moline, during the retail center’s heyday. After the store moved to SouthPark Mall, the Riverstone Group located an office there. CREDIT RENEW MOLINE

Built in 1956 as a JCPenney Department Store, the building later housed 50 RiverStone employees from the late 1980s to 2019. 

RiverStone Vice President Mike Ellis said in the Renew news release announcing the gift: “We are pleased to be able to donate a quality building to continue Renew’s track record of redevelopment success. We are excited to see what the future holds.”

So is the City of Moline. Ryan Hvitløk, Moline community and economic development director, told the QCBJ today, Thursday, July 28, “The city is grateful for this wonderful donation by the RiverStone Group and looks forward to working with Renew Moline and their talented team to revitalize this building and add to the ongoing success and vitality of downtown.”

He added: “This donation will help spur additional commercial and residential development along the Fifth Avenue corridor and serves as another example of big things happening not just in Moline but also the Quad Cities region as a whole.”

The RiverStone property being donated includes a 35,064-square-foot building and a parking lot directly north of the building. It was built as one of two JCPenney locations in Moline’s once-thriving Fifth Avenue downtown retail center. The store moved to SouthPark Mall in 1972, about five years after the new mall was constructed.

The building also was among the contributing buildings included in Moline’s successful bid to win the National Register of Historic Place’s Historic Downtown designation.

“Renew Moline is grateful for the continued generosity and civic mindedness of the RiverStone Group and Ellis family,” said Renew Moline Board Chairman Greg Derrick. “Renew’s goal is to position the property as a great development opportunity. We are looking forward to bringing the building back to life adding to the vitality of downtown Moline.”

The Fifth Avenue Penney’s building isn’t the first downtown building to be donated by RiverStone Group, Renew said. In 1989, RiverStone donated one of the city’s oldest commercial downtown buildings to Renew Moline. These days the structure is the home of Bad Boyz Pizza. 

RiverStone’s donation not only helped prevent the demolition of the historic Skinner Block, it assisted in its successful redevelopment. That stretch of buildings, now known as The Historic Block, is now home to Shameless Chocoholic, bars and breweries and Dead Poets Espresso as well as upper floor apartments.

The RiverStone property at 1701 Fifth Ave. provides more new development opportunities at the opposite end of the main downtown business thoroughfare. 

“The building is centrally located in our downtown on historic Fifth Avenue so it’s a great opportunity to continue development toward the east,” Ms. Elias said. “Our intention will be to find a catalytic project that will be consistent with the city’s adopted plans for the area and build on the work of the past few years with the Urban Land Institute. This site has great potential, and we are excited to have a role in writing the next chapter of its history.”

The next step is for Renew Moline, in cooperation with the City of Moline, to develop a redevelopment strategy to maximize development potential and enhance the Fifth Avenue corridor. 

The organization said it will seek a development team to transform the property. Like the Skinner Block redevelopment, the former RiverStone property redevelopment will likely include first-floor commercial space as well as residential units on the site.

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