In honor of its 10th anniversary, Modern Woodmen Bank was the bearer of a gift Friday that will support three things near and dear to its heart: downtown Rock Island, redevelopment and military veterans.

Representatives of the bank and its parent, Modern Woodmen of America, donated $10,000 to the Rock Island Economic Growth Corporation, or GROWTH, to kick start a housing redevelopment in downtown. The funding will cover pre-development costs associated with revitalizing the Star Block.

Located in The District at 1821-1823 2nd Ave., the Star Block will be renovated into eight residential units — two of which will be affordable housing for veterans — as well as 1,600 square feet of renovated commercial space.

“The fact that this project will help veterans is particularly important to us,” said W. Kenny Massey, the bank’s board chairman and president and chief executive officer of Modern Woodmen of America. “These heroes deserve housing that is accessible and affordable. Modern Woodmen Bank is proud to be the first organization to support the project.”

Steve Ollenburg, the bank’s president and CEO, said Modern Woodmen Bank is no stranger to supporting downtown Rock Island housing projects. “We were the only private lender involved in the financing of Jackson Square,” he said of another GROWTH redevelopment.

As they were looking for a meaningful way to mark the bank’s first decade, “we were hopeful it would be something with a military or veteran component,” he said.

Ollenburg, who has been with the bank since it opened in 2003, added “We are the only bank headquartered in downtown Rock Island and have a strong local economic impact. To celebrate 10 years, we wanted to further our commitment to the downtown community.”

The bank’s anniversary also comes as Modern Woodmen celebrates its 130th year anniversary.

During a news conference at Modern Woodmen’s Rock Island home office, Brian Hollenback, the president of Renaissance Rock Island, said the organization “is very excited” by the donation. “This really provides the initial capital so we can start this redevelopment right away.”

He said the $1.7 million project will put Renaissance over $150 million mark of investment made in Rock Island.

“This is truly a picture of what can happen in a public-private partnership.”

Renaissance is the umbrella organization over GROWTH, the Development Association of Rock Island, or DARI, and The District.

Rock Island Mayor Dennis Pauley, who attended the presentation, said, “The donation will help enhance the downtown area and meet the special needs of our veterans.”

The project will bring back renovated commercial space to a building that has not operated as a business for years,” Hollenback said. “This is huge for downtown,” he added.

The Star Block housed an antique business for years, recognizable by a stuffed buffalo that sat in its display window. The block is owned by Roy Flachs.

Renaissance will close on the two buildings that make up the Star Block by the end of February. It is not purchasing the third building, which appears to be part of the same structure, that houses East Town Chinese and Dell’s in The District.

Work is slated to begin in the spring. The latest project will push GROWTH over 200 housing units that it has developed or redeveloped in downtown in the past seven years.

GROWTH’s other housing projects and their investments have included Goldman and Renaissance Lofts ($6.3 million), Clipper Condominiums ($2 million), Sala Flats ($5 million), Bowlby Condominiums ($750,000), Murphy Lofts ($635,000), Voss Brothers Lofts ($5.5 million), McKesson Loft Condominiums ($6.5 million), Jackson Square ($8.8 million), and Goldman Family Block ($1 million).

The organization also will break ground this spring on a market-rate housing project in the same area of downtown. The Locks is a new multi-family complex being built as part of Rock Island’s Transit Oriented Development with MetroLINK, which is building a new transit station to serve the downtown.

Star Block At a glance

What: Star Block will be renovated into eight new residential rental units with 1,600 square feet of commercial space. It is a redevelopment project of Rock Island Economic Development Growth Corp.

Where: 1821-1823 2nd Ave., Rock Island.

History: The 137-year-old structure was designated a Rock Island landmark in 1991. Although the structure appears to be a single entity, the Star Block is made up of three separate structures owned by three different owners. GROWTH is acquiring and renovating two of the buildings.

Particulars: The three-story Star Block will have one- and two-bedroom live-work rental units ranging in size from 540- to 1,400-square-feet. Accessible, affordable units targeting military veterans will be created on the ground floor behind the renovated commercial space.

Funding: Renaissance has not determined funding for the $1.7 million project. Modern Woodmen Bank became the first private organization to get involved in the project, donating $10,000 on Friday.

For more information: Contact Brian Hollenback at 309-788-6311, brian@teamrockisland.com or visit www.LiveRI.com.

Source: Rock Island Economic Growth Corp.

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