About

Posted in General Information on February 26, 2013 by Tory Brecht

What are we doing in Davenport? Working together to build a great community in which to live, work, play and raise a family. This blog will track the progress entrepreneurs, business owners, residents and the City of Davenport staff are making to pursue this ongoing goal.

Check here regularly to see exciting new projects, business expansions and new opportunities unfold.

L&D15 – New Business

Posted in Projects with tags , , , , on September 29, 2014 by Tory Brecht

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520 W. 2nd Street

Status: November Opening
Job Created: TBD

 

Exterior of L&D 15

 

Since moving from Brooklyn to Davenport a little more than a year ago, David Balluff and Lopeti Etu have searched long and hard to find the perfect space for their eclectic hand-made clothing and hat (and other stuff) store.

A brief residency in cramped quarters at Bucktown came to an end awhile ago, and the pair have been busy fulfilling mail order requests in their apartment since. But they finally found what they were looking for in The Market building on W. 2nd Street.

“It’s a great location for us, with gigantic windows and close to the Farmers’ Market, the Figge, the bike trail and other things going on down here,” said Balluff, who manufactures organic cotton and bamboo silkscreen shirts, dresses, sarongs, onsies, tank tops and other fine products under the name General Assembly.

His partner, Lopeti Etu, creates hand-blocked hats of all sorts, under the brand Lopeti Etu Millinery.

Both of their complete lines of products, as well as those of other local and far-flung original designers, will be housed at the new L&D 15 limited edition clothing, accessories and housewares shop.

Balluff said the fact the building was known as the New York Hat Company in the 1910s, made it seem like the perfect home for he and Lopeti’s vision.

“We’re bringing back not only hat manufacturing, but we were recently in New York ourselves,” he said.

Brand new windows help spruce up L&D 15

Brand new windows help spruce up L&D 15

Etu and Balluff plan to reach out to artists and designers both locally and internationally, including open calls for artists/makers and other creatives to present new products. That will happen closer to the studio’s opening.

“We’re trying to build something that gives back to the community,” Balluff said. “Our target market isn’t young or old, rich or poor. It’s people who appreciate things made by hand.”

He calls this “retail 2.0″ – meaning L&D 15 won’t be just a place to shop, but a living workshop and community gathering space.

Part of their interior work that includes renovating floors and painting. They are using lumber from Davenport Public Works’ urban wood utilization program. They plan to open sometime in November.

 

 

Riverwatch Place – New Building Development

Posted in Projects with tags , , , , , on September 26, 2014 by Tory Brecht

Riverwatch building from 4th Street

 

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227 LeClaire Street
Total Investment: $25 million (Est.)
Total Public Investment:TBD – TIF reimbursement/Potential Brownfield Grant
Jobs Created: TBD
Status: Demo in December of existing hotel building, construction in 2015

Two well-known developers and one of the Quad-Cities largest construction firms are teaming up to replace one of Davenport’s worst eyesores with a gleaming new downtown development.

Riverwatch Place, a six-story mixed-use office and retail development, is the name of the winning proposal for replacement of the dilapidated Howard Johnson’s property at the central city’s eastern gateway. The developers are Bush Construction and Ruhl Commercial Investors, BLDD Architects.

The empty  hotel on the site has sat empty since 2009, earning it the dubious distinction of being one of downtown’s most notorious blighted properties. By contrast, the glass-encased new building will contain 60,000 square-feet, with most dedicated to Class A office space. Plans also call for a sixth-floor restaurant reminiscent of the old Davenport Club, and other retail and/or restaurant uses on the first floor.

Property owner Demolition Davenport, through the Downtown Davenport Partnership, will continue to be the steward of the property until a final closing.

The developers intend to demolish the building by the end of the year, with their sights set on spring or summer construction. City staff is working on some property consolidation and a draft economic development agreement. Bruce Berger, Davenport’s Community Planning & Economic Development Director, said the major incentive used will likely be a Tax Increment Financing reimbursement of the increased assessed value of the site, at a percentage to be determined.

 

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Kyle Carter of the Downtown Partnership said the time is ripe for new office development downtown. 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.

“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.”

Berger said completion of both this project and the pending Dock at Davenport project will breathe new life into downtown’s east side.

“Adding amenities like new restaurants as well as Class A office space show that downtown Davenport is vibrant and a great place to do business,” Berger said. “It makes our job of attracting new investment and new businesses easier.”

Riverwatch place viewed from the river

Grace Engineered Products/Letter2Word – Business Expansion

Posted in Projects with tags , , , , , , on September 3, 2014 by Tory Brecht

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5001 Tremont Ave. and 1515 E. Kimberly Road
Total Investment: $2.7 million
Total Public Investment:$30,000 IEDC High Quality Jobs Program
Jobs Created: 11-15 (Grace) 3-5 (Letter2Word)
Status: Expansion in progress

 

GraceExterior2

Philip Allen is a serial entrepreneur who grew Grace Engineered Products Inc. from a virtual one-man operation into a global manufacturer of electrical safety devices employing 25 here in Davenport. Now, he plans to not only expand that business and add up to 15 new employees, but is helping nurture a start-up called Letter2Word.

Grace is a worldwide leader in electrical safety products, especially the GracePort panel interface connectors, which allow users to either service an electrical cabinet without opening its panels or at least determine whether it is safe to open from the outside. Allen pioneered the application of Safeside voltage indicators into lock-out, tag-out procedures, which help improve worker safety while working on electrical equipment. Customers of this Davenport-based company include such giants as Ford Motor Co., Procter & Gamble and Kimberly Clark.

The company started in 1993, when Allen and some associates were working on a friction welder retrofit project at John Deere. Work was needed on a relatively dangerous machine with an interface in the front and an electrical panel with a 250 horsepower drive and a 400 amp main feed  inconveniently located at the rear. The only way to access the machine for maintenance was to open the doors, but the maintenance supervisor understood this caused a potential hazard.

“The supervisor insisted they keep the door closed,” said Allen. “The end result was the panel interface connector, which would become an industry standard.”

Now, the company sells all over the world.

“We just got an order for 40 units from Italy and another large order for Australia.” About 20 percent of the company’s product is exported, about half of it to Canada. This growth, both internationally and domestically, drove the decision to expand. Allen has purchased a building at 1515 E. Kimberly Road, which will house a mix of expanded Grace operations as well as the new and growing Letter2Word operations. The Iowa Economic Development Association board awarded the company $30,000 in direct financial assistance and tax benefits through its High Quality Jobs Program, due to the increase in employment that will result from the expansion.

 

Advanced manufacturing laser cutting machines allow Grace to make thousands of different customized products

Advanced manufacturing laser cutting machines allow Grace to make thousands of different customized products

Grace Engineered Product’s unique process – Allen holds several U.S. and international patents for thru-panel electrical safety devices – allow it to mass produce customized products.

“We can get a specific order in one day, even with a specialized logo, and have it out the door the following day in most cases,” Allen said.

The 15 or so new employees he hopes to add later this fall will come into a workplace that values employee engagement. It’s a pet-friendly office, and several dogs can be seen wandering around at any given time. There is a large, warmly decorated break room and the factory floor and inventory bay are bright, clean and neat. To qualify for the IEDC incentives, starting wages start at $17.47 an hour and include full health benefits.

Allen said he chose to expand in Davenport both because of convenience and because of its outstanding workforce.

“We have good, hardworking people who show up on time, do their jobs and don’t quit,” he said. “The city was also very responsive and helped us work with the state.”

Another reason space was getting tight was due to the growth of Letter2Word, a startup home and business design and decor company co-founded by Allen’s wife Jane, her friend Sally Dailey and Dailey’s daughter Shannon Evans. The company creates  hand-painted words and phrases that can be hung indoors or outdoors to share unique messages. The letters are created on the same precision cutting machines that Grace uses for its products, making the businesses perfect for co-existing.

L2Word

Sally said the company has already secured several large accounts, and will need to add 3 to 5 new employees at the new location on Kimberly Avenue to meet the demand for product delivered this spring.

“We have just had such a great working relationship with Phil and his staff,” she said. “He calls it cross-pollination of  business and it really seems to work.”

Allen said he is an entrepreneur at heart who loves innovation, so stand by for more business ventures in Davenport going forward.

Terrostar/Medix Dental – New Business

Posted in Projects with tags , , , , , , on August 29, 2014 by Tory Brecht

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300 Brady Street
Total Investment: $150,000-$200,000
Total Public Investment: Up to $30,000 (Downtown Davenport Partnership construction funds)
Private Funds Leveraged: $150,000-$200,000
Jobs Created: 5
Status: Targeted opening end of 2014

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A very old building in the heart of downtown Davenport will soon be the home of two very modern companies.

Terrostar and Medix Dental – which do online marketing and IT and technology support for the dental industry, respectively – are moving into the former Schneff Jeweler s and First Trust and Savings Building at the corner of Third and Brady streets. Tom Terronez, who owns both companies, says he hopes to have the 20-plus member staff moved into the renovated third floor of the nearly century old building by the end of 2014.

“A lot of stuff is happening in downtown Davenport, and being a tech-based business, we wanted something that fits our personality,” he said. “We love the historic building and we love being close to the action going on. My staff is very young and they want to be near the restaurants, bars and other things going on.”

The companies are currently housed on a couple different floors in their Bettendorf building on Utica Ridge Road, and Terronez plans to add five new employees in the current year. Being out of room, and wanting to consolidate operations, are another reason for the move, he said.

SchneffInside

There is quite a bit of work to do to convert the former administration offices of Palmer College of Chiropractic into a tech-savvy, open design workspace. Although the high ceilings and bright windows remain, pretty much everything else will be updated and renovated, Terronez said.

The building’s owner – TR Holdings – has plans to create second floor apartments and first floor retail and loft space – but there is not a firm construction timeline at this point, said a company spokesman. Work will also include some facade cleanup on the building that was erected in 1918.

Terronez said his project should fit in nicely with recently announced plans Eastern Iowa Community College’s new “urban campus” in the renovated bank buildings across 3rd Street. He hopes to bring in interns from both the college and from the Davenport School District’s Creative Arts Academy.

“The long-term vision is to have downtown Davenport be a tech and education corridor,” he said.

 

New Project: Downtown SCC Campus and Kahl Renovation

Posted in Projects with tags , , , , , on August 13, 2014 by Tory Brecht

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Total Investment: $50 Million (estimated)
Total Public Investment: TBD
Private Funds Leveraged: TBD
Jobs Created: 200-plus (estimated, construction & full-time)

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The vacant First Midwest Bank building will be converted into one of the core campus buildings for Scott CC downtown

The pace of development in downtown Davenport is accelerating even faster with the announcement of a major public-private partnership between Eastern Iowa Community Colleges and developer Restoration St. Louis that will renovate three major buildings over the next two years.

Under the terms of the proposed agreement, around $50 million will be invested to create a brand new downtown urban campus for Scott Community College and renovation of the Kahl Building (the current home of Scott classrooms) into market rate housing, first floor retail, and the long-awaited restoration of the Capitol Theater.

Two vacant and deteriorating buildings – the former First Midwest Bank and former First Federal Bank/Social Security Administration building on 3rd Street – will be renovated and make up the core of the new campus building. The 80,000 square-foot campus will feature classrooms, computer labs, a science lab, student commons, outdoor plaza, meeting place and administrative offices. The college’s current classrooms and offices in both the Kahl Building and the Ground Transportation Center will be consolidated on the new campus.

The Kahl will then be taken over by Restoration St. Louis and renovated into an 80-90 unit apartment building featuring first-floor retail and the new and improved Capitol Theatre. The theatre will be a big screen, first-run movie house that likely will serve food and alcoholic beverages, according to Restoration St. Louis.

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Project costs are calculated at approximately $50 million. Financing will come from a variety of sources, including Historic Preservation Tax Credits, traditional lending, bond issuance proceeds and a capital campaign by Eastern Iowa Community College. EICC Chancellor Don Doucette vowed that no property taxes or tuition increases will be part of the funding. Sam Estep, senior VP of development for Restoration, said the company does plan to submit an economic development agreement to the City of Davenport at some point. This likely will involve economic incentives, but what exactly those will entail is still being worked out.

The timeline is to finalize feasibility studies and cost estimates by late fall of this year and begin construction in 2015, Estep said. College officials would like to move into classrooms in 2016.

“This is a really exciting opportunity to meet not only the growing needs of a local educational resource, but to do so while creating a major economic development project,” said Estep. “We remain very excited about the future of downtown Davenport.”

Artisan Grain Distillery – New Business

Posted in Projects with tags , , , , on August 11, 2014 by Tory Brecht

Doing-it-in-Davenport_Black 318 E. 2nd St. Total Investment: $500,000 Total Public Investment: $0 Private Funds Leveraged: $500,000 Jobs Created: 10 Status: Opening in September   Artisan Grain Distillery will be opening in this building in downtown Davenport soon

Downtown Davenport will be even more “spirited” soon, with micro-distillery Artisan Grain readying to open right next door to the already-thriving Great River Brewery. Opening the distillery is a dream come true for owner Allen Jarosz, an aviation industry retiree and successful businessman who also founded Davenport Tractor Inc., which sells replacement parts for antique tractors with a major focus on John Deere. The tractor business will continue to operate out of the back of the historic 8,600-square-foot building on 2nd Street, while the front of the building is in the midst of a transformation into a visitor-friendly distillery and tasting room/gift shop.

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The open space near the brick wall in this photo soon will be home to 6 fermenters and a large copper still

“Distilling has been a love of mine, ever since attending distilling school in Kentucky,” said Jarosz. “I really decided to take the plunge and turn it into a business last January.” That’s a bit harder to do than one might think, thanks to extremely strict regulations put in place on the spirits industry by the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, or TTB for short. Jarosz said he received tremendous help navigating local, state and federal permitting and licensing issues from Davenport aldermen Bill Boom, 3rd Ward and Jason Gordon, At-Large. He also got some tips and tactics from Mississippi River Distilling Company in LeClaire, which has been in business for several years already.

“Craft distillers don’t consider other distillers as competitors, rather as friends that may be called on for help when needed,” he said. “Those guys are really pioneers, not only in Iowa, but on the national level as a micro-distillery.”

Jarosz said one thing that makes Artisan Grain unique is an uncompromising adherence to keeping things local. All the grains used in the process will be grown on a 120-acre organic farm he owns in Milan.

“We will grow and mill the grain,  ferment, distill and age the spirits, for national distribution or local consumption,” he said.  “By growing our own organic or kosher grains we may control the quality, and selection of grains available in the manufacture of our product, and allows us to customize our product taste by growing grains that may not be in abundance to other distilleries. This whiskey will be made from grain grown here in the Quad-Cities and distilled and bottled here in Davenport.”

Artisan Grain takes an old-school approach to the manufacturing process

Artisan Grain takes an old-school approach to the manufacturing process

Because finer whiskeys need to be aged in wooden barrels – often for years – the initial product line from Artisan Grain will consist of moonshine, white whiskey, white rum and other “young” spirits. Longer-term, a full line of whiskeys and bourbons are planned. Jarosz is awaiting delivery on six 7-foot-tall fermenting tanks and a 24-foot-tall copper still with a price tag of $150,000 before production can get underway. He is targeting a Sept. 15 date for the start of manufacturing and hopes to have the first spirits ready to sip on Oct. 24.

“That is also the date of a new moon, so what better time to break out some moonshine?” he said.

Moonshine bottles are ready for filling

Moonshine bottles are ready for filling

The tasting room and gift shop should be open in January. Jarosz said deciding to locate in Davenport was pretty easy. “I’ve lived in the Quad-Cities for many years and I find Davenport to be very forward-thinking and progressive in terms of supporting business,” he said. “There is also always something going on and things to do.”

Old HoJo Site Moving Closer to Re-Development

Posted in Projects with tags , , , on July 24, 2014 by Tory Brecht
The old and abandoned Howard Johnsons hotel on LeClaire Street in Davenport

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 Johnsons) in its heyday

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.

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