Three Corners Development announced Wednesday that a hometown favorite — Happy Joe’s PizzaGrille — will become the first commercial tenant at The Mills at Riverbend Commons, the developer's new student housing complex in Moline.

Christopher Woods, president of Three Corners Development, said the Orland Park, Ill.-based developer has signed a lease with a Happy Joe's franchisee for 5,000 square feet, or about one-fourth of The Mills' available commercial spaces.

The restaurant is scheduled to open in mid-summer at the nearly one-year-old housing complex, located at 2900 River Drive, near Western Illinois University-Quad-Cities. Happy Joe's will occupy the space adjacent and west of the breezeway on the north side of the complex.

"The Happy Joe’s brand has been a part of the Quad-Cities for over four decades, so it’s very gratifying for us to have the first Happy Joe’s PizzaGrille concept in Moline located within The Mills," Woods said. "A Happy Joe’s-managed franchise is the perfect addition to our new neighborhood and to the university community."

According to Woods, Three Corners is negotiating leases for another 4,500 square feet, and hopes to have the commercial space half-full by mid-summer. He said the other tenants will include a fast casual, sit-down restaurant and a lifestyle center such as a yoga, pilates and juicebar. The tenants will add to its other amenities, including a fitness center, media room and volleyball court.

"The addition of Happy Joe's strengthens the amenity offerings already available to The Mills residents and it signals that Riverbend Commons is a viable commercial destination for all of the Quad-Cities," he added.

The $22 million housing project, which opened last fall, is part of a $100 million mixed-use development that Three Corners has planned for Moline's riverfront. 

Woods said Phase 2 is for 150 units of market-rate housing, which now are in the pre-development and design stage. He expects the project will break ground in the spring of 2016.

"We created an ambitious vision for the Riverbend Commons property — to build a premier mixed-use site that not only serves the Western Illinois University-Quad-Cities campus but also the riverfront and the greater community," Moline Mayor Scott Raes said in a news release. "With the recruitment of Happy Joe’s PizzaGrille, another significant milestone has been reached toward fully realizing that vision."

Joseph Rives, Western Illinois' vice president for Quad-Cities and Planning and chairman of the Renew Moline Project Management Team, called Three Corners "a committed partner to the community" since the firm was chosen as the preferred master developer for the 15-acre site of riverfront."

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"Close housing options and amenities such as restaurants at The Mills help the university and the community recruit and retain talent, and are important private development tax generators for the region."

The Happy Joe’s PizzaGrille will offer an expanded menu with grill items including hamburgers and chicken wings, and as many as 18 beers on tap. The full-service restaurant also will feature an expanded buffet, a party room and dozens of televisions.

According to Larry Whitty, Happy Joe's president, Three Corners representatives were "very persistent in communicating their vision" for The Mills and the other developments planned.

"The more we talked about their plans, the more we realized that The Mills at Riverbend Commons is an excellent opportunity for us," Whitty said, adding, "We are excited to showcase the rebranding of this legacy brand targeted to the younger demographics including the coveted millennials which the Mills project has hit the bulls eye."

Last week, Happy Joe's announced its new concept restaurant also would be part of a newly proposed indoor/outdoor sports complex planned for near Interstates 80 and 74 in Davenport.

Woods said the Riverbend Commons development is designed not only to become a university town for the Western and other area college students living in The Mills, "but we're creating a high-density, sub-use neighborhood  in Moline ..."