After sitting on the sidelines of the Quad-Cities' riverfront development for years, East Moline now is poised to see its riverfront transformed by a long-awaited project known as The Bend on the Mighty Mississippi.
The project's partners joined East Moline city officials and economic development leaders at a news conference Monday to announce the project's status. Great River Property Development, the co-developer, made the announcement just hours before the city council unanimously approved The Bend's final plat.
"We are building The Bend, a 132-acre multi-use development on the site of the old Case plant," said former Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, a partner in Great River Property Development. "We want people to know we are building."
Dan Murphy, former owner of Precision Pipeline, is the majority owner. Larry Anderson of East Moline Glass also is a partner in Great River Property Davenport. Olympia Cos. will manage the hotels.
"This is basically building a town," Jacobs said.
The first phase of the $76.5 million project will feature a co-branded, 230-room Hyatt House and Hyatt Place Hotel; a 108-unit apartment building developed and managed by Chicago-based Evergreen Real Estate Group; as well as construction of the new infrastructure on the now vacant site.
After the 6-0 council vote, approving the plat, Jacobs said the action now allows Great River Property to parcel the ground and begin selling property to the project's other partners, including the hotel and apartments as well as other retail and commercial developments.
"This is one of many steps to the goal line," Jim Russell, whose Davenport company, Russell Construction, will build the hotel and apartments, said after the vote. He also is The Bend's co-developer and an minor investor in the project. "It's an important step to get to financing and to move it forward."
Valley Construction will build all the site's infrastructure, he said.
Asked about the timetable, Russell said "This one has taken longer than it should have. But it's the nature of the beast. When you begin a complicated project, it takes a long time.''
He compared the length of time to other projects such as The Q passenger rail station, and Russell Construction's own redevelopment plans for the former Lodge (Jumer's) Hotel.
The project was announced in 2010. It has taken years to get the development pieces in place from recruiting other partners for the projects, such as the hotel and apartments, to securing financing and other delays, including legal woes.
At the news conference earlier in the day, East Moline Mayor John Thodos said "This is exciting news for East Moline and the Quad-Cities in general. It has required a lot of patience and diligent work by the developers."
"Right now, this is the project," Thodos said after the council meeting. "This is the project we will be working on for some time. The days of 15 factories for East Moline are gone."
Jacobs credited the city for its role in making the project a reality. "There is no way you develop and build a $70 (million) to $80 million project without help on infrastructure," he told reporters at the news conference.
Under a previously approved development agreement, Jacobs said the city approved a $10.2 million loan for the developers to build the infrastructure on the site. Part of a tax increment financing, or TIF, district, the project's increased property taxes generated by the hotel and apartments will be used to re-pay the city, he said.
"A lot of people thought this wouldn't happen,'' Thodos said, adding that he once was asked "Why East Moline?" "Well, why not East Moline."
Thodos said East Moline has given its support to many other regional projects over the years, including riverboat gaming, the iWireless Center, Western Illinois University's Quad-City campus and the new Interstate 74 bridge. "We supported those; now this is a regional project too," he said.
Jacobs said the addition of The Bend will create a new Illinois Quad-City corridor, a new River Drive, stretching from Rock Island to East Moline. "We're the new anchor on this end."
Tim Knanishu, executive vice president of REDEEM (Revitalize, Develop East Moline), said the project is the largest project that REDEEM has assisted on in its 25 years. The site also is the largest piece of undeveloped, flood-protected ground on the Mississippi River.
"We're taking back the riverfront, which we have been trying to do for decades," he said, adding that The Bend will be a catalyst for other development along the riverfront corridor.
"This site, down the shoreline from Chicago-Quad-Cities passenger rail and the Q Multi-Modal Station, the iWireless Center, the new I-74 corridor and Western Illinois University-Quad-Cities Riverfront campus, will be part of a vibrant riverfront community," he added.
Ray De Winkle, vice president of business attraction for the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce, added that the new development will transform the riverfront, which had a long heritage as an harvesting equipment manufacturer.
In addition to a new restaurant/lounge overlooking the riverfront, the project "also is a new hotel brand for the Quad-Cities. Having a Hyatt as part of this puts the region on the map," he said.
"There is positive momentum in this region and you don't have that in all regions ...," De Winkle said. "People want to see success, this shows success."