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 effort to create the Rock Island Downtown Alliance, a public-private partnership being created to drive the rebirth of the city’s downtown, has made significant strides in recent weeks. If all goes well, the new downtown placemaking agency could be ready to get to work early in 2023. On Monday, Dec. 19, Rock Island aldermen approved the tax rate for the special services area (SSA) that will be necessary to support the work of the new organization. On a 6-1 vote, the city set the property tax rate for property owners within the SSA at up to 1.15% of equalized assessed value, or a total maximum levy of $310,613 in property taxes, for the fiscal year beginning Jan. 1 and ending Dec. 31, 2023. A week earlier, the council formally created the downtown SSA, which is roughly bounded by First and Seventh avenues and 13th to 28th streets. That vote and others came after a months-long series of public meetings. Only Alderwoman Judith Gilbert, who has opposed the SSA from the start, voted against the measures to create the organization and fund it. Such districts, which are generally paid for by special taxes on property owners within the district, are common throughout Illinois and Iowa, including in the Quad Cities. They can be empowered to do things such as pick up litter, plant flowers, provide visitor hospitality, signage, branding and marketing, and business assistance. Downtown Rock Island business leaders who make up the Rock Island Downtown Steering Committee that has driven the SSA effort opted to name their place management agency the Rock Island Downtown Alliance, or RIDA for short, according to the city’s Community and Economic Development Director Miles Brainard. The next step for RIDA and the city will be approving ordinances that will create the new agency and its bylaws as well as an agreement between the Quad Cities Chamber and the city to create and manage the new placemaking entity. RIDA is modeled after two other Quad Cities Chamber-city placemaking partnerships: Downtown Davenport Partnership and the Downtown Bettendorf Organization. On Monday, Dec. 12, Mr. Brainard shared with the Rock Island City Council a preliminary draft agreement with the chamber that would create the partnership for the place-management services RIDA would provide as well as the bylaws of the organization. Aldermen shared their input and concerns about the draft documents. In addition, City Manager Todd Thompson also spoke with chamber leaders and the two parties agreed to postpone consideration of a final agreement to the Jan. 9 meeting, Mr. Brainard told the QCBJ. In the meantime, he expects there will be continuing discussions between the two parties about the details of the service agreement and the accompanying organization bylaws. The original draft document called for a 12-member board of directors made up of the Fifth Ward alderperson, the city manager, two downtown residents, three downtown business owners who may be property owners, three downtown property owners and one downtown nonprofit representative. The city's community and economic development director and the downtown director, who will be employed by the chamber, also would be members of the board as nonvoting, ex-officio members. If the Downtown Rock Island Alliance moves ahead, it will be in effect for five years, then evaluated to determine if it should continue after the trial period.