It was a brand new starting line for Quad-City Times Bix runners Saturday as they squeezed in between downtown Davenport storefronts that after years of sitting dark and empty — one as long as four decades — have come back to life.
Millions of dollars in redevelopment has taken shape or been kicked off in the past year in just a three-block stretch at the foot of Brady Street hill. The projects are among $98 million in investments under construction throughout the downtown since last year's race.
"For folks who only come here once a year, they can see tangible progress," said Kyle Carter, the executive director of the Downtown Davenport Partnership.
Just near the starting line, these projects occurred: Wells Fargo Bank moved into newly remodeled space at Restoration St. Louis' City Square; Analog Arcade opened in the long shuttered Schneff's Jewelers; Daytrotter, a music venue and recording studio, now occupies the ground floor of the renovated Renwick Building; and a new housing project with a civil rights interpretive center is under construction at 5th and Brady streets.
"For the first time in at least 30 years, the Brady Street corridor is completely open," Carter said of activity surrounding the starting line. Of the near $100 million in downtown construction, he said "Of course, most of that is City Square."
Restoration St. Louis, owned by Amy and Amrit Gill, is redeveloping half a city block along 2nd Street into the $60 million City Square. The project kicked off with Wells Fargo's move this spring into the former Parker Building. Construction crews now are renovating the center building that connects the Parker and Putnam Building. Interior demolition has begun in the Putnam.
"Since we started working in Davenport, that entire stretch of Brady from the Renwick, Forrest Block and the Parker Building have all been rehabbed," said Amy Gill, whose development company first made its mark here with the Hotel Blackhawk's historic renovation.
The Brady Street revival has been rounded out for a few years by the new Union Arcade Apartments and Democrat Lofts, both former office buildings converted into lofts. In addition, the Starting Line bar is back to that name, Carter said.
He said only the future Scott Community Colleges' urban campus and the Hiberian Hall remain dark in that stretch of Brady. "But Hiberian Hall is in transition into housing and retail," he said of the project by Quad-City developers Manisha and Manoji Baheti.
Likewise, plans also are moving forward to convert two former bank buildings on 3rd Street between Brady and Main streets into a new college campus.
"They have bought the buildings and now the next phase is construction financing," Carter said. "That really is the next domino to fall. The school is the most important project beyond City Square."
According to Carter, another $112 million of projects are in the pipeline for downtown, which has seen $400 million in investments since 2000.
"Instead of standing along a bunch of dark, vacant buildings, now the runners are standing next to all these buildings that have been completely re-done and have new businesses in them," Gill said. "It's a whole new impression of Davenport."
One of the most notable and celebrated changes of the last year actually is missing from the landscape — the former Howard Johnson hotel at River Drive and 3rd Street. Located near the Bix finish line, the eyesore met the wrecking ball back in November after being vacant six years.
In its place, a $20 million Riverwatch Place office building is planned.
Developer John Ruhl said Riverwatch LLC since has closed on the property and plans are advancing. "We are working on the final architecture design work and the building now is five stories vs. six," he said, adding "We have adequate occupancy to proceed."
He could not yet disclose the tenants, but said a ground-breaking is expected in the next 90 days.
"We've made good progress and are excited to proceed with the project and have space for other tenants," he said. "We'll definitely be under construction and completed by next Bix."