The owners of a downtown Davenport building are turning back the page on its history as they work to revive the long-ago cigar store and consider a new chapter by expanding it upward.
The one-story, former office building at 3rd and Main streets is the latest redevelopment project of downtown developer and insurance executive Jim Thomson and Big Dog Construction co-owners Shawn Larson and Chris Haber.
Thomson said the building dates back to 1916 and over the years has been the home of many retailers and commercial and office tenants. The partners, who have other downtown loft projects to their credit, acquired the building under the name United Cigar Building LLC in a nod to the original anchor tenant, United Cigar Stores Co.
According to Larson, working off the original blueprints and early photographs of the building, they plan to restore the look of the original façade by this summer.
“We’re working with Shive-Hattery to study the building in a structural sense,” he said, adding that it appears the building was designed to carry more floors. Like a lot of downtown structures built in the early 1900s “it looks like they had plans for more floors but they didn’t get built because the Great Depression hit.”
But its latest owners want to revive those plans and hope to add more floors to the 16,400-square-feet building. “We think the original design was to be 10 stories high. We probably wouldn’t do that many,” Thomson said. From the building’s exterior, he said, “We think the Putnam Building is similar in look (to what the original plans were).”
Although the building has a couple of current tenants who plan to remain and Big Dog Construction has relocated its offices there, the centerpiece of the project for now will be an upscale restaurant/bar. It will occupy about a quarter of the building as well offering a rooftop beer garden.
“Yes, there are strong rumors of somebody returning downtown and those rumors are true,” Larson said, declining to identify the restaurant operator, who will lease the space from United Cigar Building LLC. The restaurant is expected to be open by fall.
A proposed 2,500-square-foot beer garden will sit atop the building toward the corner of 3rd and Main streets and will open next year. If the developers get the green light to move ahead with upper-story loft housing, the units will wrap around two sides of the beer garden.
Larson said they were among the first developers to bring loft housing to downtown Davenport, where the urban-style of living has since exploded with new projects in every corner of downtown.
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By coincidence, Clausen & Kruse Architects, the original architectural firm behind the United Cigar building, remains in business as Scholtz Gowey Gere Marolf. The building's owners are working with architect John Gere on the new design.
"We've always had a great interest in these old buildings in downtown and the three of us have a great partnership," Larson said.
In addition to the restaurant, the building will continue to house Rick Jennisch Photography, Ruby Slipper and Infinity Salon, which is a rebranded version of Studio One Eleven.
The building also has 1,300 square feet available for lease.
Larson said decisions are still being made about what amenities to include in the new lofts, which also could have access to the services next door in The Davenport.
"We're not talking about going up for a year or two,'' Thomson said. "But the facade will be done in June and all the tenants will be in by the first of September."