On a now barren industrial site where generations of workers churned out Big Red combines, a pair of Hyatt hotels are finally giving East Moline its shot at riverfront development.

Fighting strong winds that swept across the sprawling site, developers of The Bend on the Mighty Mississippi broke ground Thursday on a dual-branded Hyatt Place and Hyatt hotel. The $40 million hotel project, being built on the former Case IH site, is part of an $80 million mixed-use development planned by Great River Property Development.

Using gold-painted shovels and donning matching hardhats, the development team and city leaders dug up scoops of gravel mix to kick off construction. More than 150 supporters — including past, present and future East Moline officials and business and economic development leaders — were on hand to witness the milestone in the city's development. 

"It's taken a long time to get all the right pieces together," Dan Murphy, the president and CEO of Great River Property Development, said after the ground-breaking. "It took awhile, but it finally came together."

First announced in December 2010, The Bend project has had many chapters and re-inventions with changes to its ownership group and building designs as well as legal wranglings and a complex financing structure. Earlier this month, Dallas-based HALL Structured Finance, a private lender to the real estate industry, announced it had closed on a $23.2 million first lien construction loan with developers for the Hyatt House and Hyatt Place hotel.

"This is not just East Moline's day, it is the Quad-Cities' day,'' said East Moline Mayor John Thodos, who was presiding over what likely is his last major economic development project. On May 1, he hands the reins to Mayor-elect Reggie Freeman, who also participated in the ceremony.

"It's been a long road. People said, 'It ain't going to happen, not in East Moline,'" said Thodos, who inherited a vacant Case IH plant with the mayor's office. "It's happening here, and I'm very proud it's happening here."

The 150,000-square-foot hotel will be a single structure with two Hyatt brands. It will feature an illuminated blade element and a ninth-floor, glass-enclosed lounge.

The 233-room hotel was designed by Legat Architects, with an office in Moline, and will be built by Russell Construction, Davenport. The hotels will include 99 extended-stay rooms in the Hyatt House and 134 traditional rooms in the Hyatt Place.

Murphy said that once crews get to work on the site, construction will take about 14 months. The hotel is being developed by The Bend Hotel Development Corp., which is a partnership between Murphy, the former owner of Precision Pipeline, and Larry Anderson of East Moline Glass.

This marks the first major development project for Murphy, a Silvis native, who now lives in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, with his wife, Jenna, who joined in the festivities.

The lengthy planning process — nearly six-some years — was a common thread among the speakers.

Contractor Jim Russell thanked the owners for keeping the project going and eventually bringing his company to the team.

"We did a lot more than be a builder to get to today. We helped convince the ownership group to fire all the first architects," he quipped.

Originally, the project had enlisted a Chicago developer, several world-renowned architects and was much larger in scale. The first phase of the project now includes the Hyatts and an apartment building, being developed by East Moline Glass' Anderson. Future commercial and office uses are expected in the long-term. 

Tim Knanishu, the executive vice president of REDEEM East Moline, said The Bend not only will transform the riverfront but create hundreds of jobs and drive economic development downtown.

"It's going to give downtown merchants the impetus to examine how can they help this amount of people, perhaps 200 every night, who are looking for something to do," he said.

The project also brings East Moline its very first hotel in the city limits.

"There are two listed in the phone book in East Moline, but they're actually Carbon Cliff," Thodos said.

The development also creates additional revenues for the city, including a new hotel/motel tax, Mayor-elect Freeman said.

"Other cities have a lot more revenues, better than ours," he said. "East Moline has not had an economic development person for seven years. This is one of the first big steps."

Olympia Companies will be the hotels' operator when they open in 2018. The company's president and CEO, Kevin Mahaney, said its workforce will be made up of Quad-City employees.

"The people living here will be welcoming people (guests) from around the world," he said. "They will be the face of this project for 20, 40, 50 years.

"Hyatt is very excited about this. They are committed to building a quality project here."

Jerry Lack, executive director of Tri-City Building and Construction Trades Council, estimated the construction project will create 200 jobs.

"We're finishing up on some others," he said of the Campus Optimization Project at Genesis Medical Center-East Rusholme in Davenport. "But others are starting to go up, like the Hyatts and John Deere Road. They're all great jobs for the building trades, and when they make money, it gets circulated throughout the community."

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