This downtown eyesore’s days are numbered
A wrecking ball will soon swing into the dilapidated walls of one of downtown Davenport’s worst eyesores, making way for what the Downtown Davenport Partnership anticipates will go from long-time nuisance to “iconic structure”.
Several developers are already anxious to pitch their ideas for the soon-to-open prime real estate at downtown’s eastern gateway, said Kyle Carter, Executive Director of the Downtown Davenport Partnership. The partnership, which used its resources to purchase the property for $210,000 and turn it over to local non-profit Demolition Davenport, is putting the final touches on a Request for Proposals geared to find the best use possible for the high-visibility parcel.
The empty Howard Johnson hotel on the site has sat empty since 2009, earning it the dubious distinction of being one of downtown’s most notorious blighted properties.
While multiple local developers have already expressed early interest, Carter said the RFPs will be distributed nationally, hopefully giving the Partnership a wide range of attractive options when picking a developer.
Downtown Partnership and City staff have a hiearchy of uses they’d like to see. Number one is corporate office or Class A office space. The second choice is a mixed-use development with some Class A office combined with residential or commercial uses. The third and fourth choices are a business class hotel and market rate residential – either rental or owner occupied.
The former Clayton House Hotel (and Howard Johnson) in its heyday
Carter said the push for office development is driven by a few factors. For one, most of the downtown building stock is older, historic businesses which are often difficult and expensive to convert into modern office use. Secondly, while the massive increase in new downtown market rate apartments has been good for business, office space drives up demand for daytime retail and commercial uses even more.
“For one, much of the downtown office space is historic with narrow column spacing, making it functionally obsolete for certain styles of corporate office design,” Carter said. “New construction offers developers a blank slate; we have a real opportunity to add more variety to our commercial offerings downtown to suit users that are seeking more open space.”
The key is finding the right balance of uses downtown, Carter added.
“We’ll never be able to compete completely with greenfield office development because of cost. But we think we can find those companies that are the right fit; especially those that need young professionals who want to be in that urban environment.”
Bruce Berger, Director of Community Planning & Economic Development in Davenport, said having the Partnership and a non-profit like Demolition Davenport help assemble the property and prepare it is incredibly helpful. It takes out the fear of the unknown, especially unknown expenses, that can make developers uneasy and risk-averse, he said. Without spending any City of Davenport taxpayer money, the two entities have:
- Completed environmental risk assessment reports
- Solicited bids for demolition (the cost of which will borne by the developers)
- Below-ground environmental and flood reports
- Debris removal
- Environmental mitigation (which will be underway this September)
The proposals that are received will be reviewed by the Downtown Davenport Partnership taskforce and ultimately voted upon by the Partnership’s Board of Directors. The following criteria will be used to determine the best developer:
- Experience, Qualifications and Expertise
- Preferred Use Factors
- Proposed Costs/Thoughtfulness of Bid
- Financial and Environmental Sustainability
- Design Quality, Scale & Aesthetics (meets or exceeds City downtown design guidelines)
- Thoroughness, and Responsiveness of Proposal
Carter expects the RFP to be issued this week with proposals due back Aug. 25. Interviews with finalists and the selection by the board would occur by the end of September.