Nearly a year after announcing plans to redevelop the vacant Case New Holland plant in East Moline, the site’s owners have secured the first development projects to begin transforming the sprawling riverfront property.

River Eagle Investments LLC unveiled plans Monday night for the first phase of the construction on the property, located along the Mississippi River. The initial projects will include a financial institution and retail space, a convenience store with adjoining retail, and a separate 18,000-square-foot strip center, that will be owned by some of the River Eagle partners and other area investors.

River Eagle detailed the projects following an East Moline City Council meeting, at which, the council gave its final approval for creating a tax increment financing, or TIF, district for the site. The action, approved by a unanimous 7-0 vote, clears the way for the developers to recoup some of their investment in the brownfields site.

“Tonight was our last step. Now we can pull the permits and start with construction of the infrastructure,” said Mike VanDeHeede, one of the investors.

While he declined to identify the specific tenants, he said the three new buildings — as well as a fourth strip center planned in the second phase — will be the property’s frontage. The new buildings will sit along East Moline’s 12th Avenue with more developed planned to the north on the river side of the property.

“With the excitement of this project there are people who are not afraid to be the first in,” said VanDeHeede, who will be one of the multiple owners of the new strip mall.  

Announced last December, the $200 million project was described as “Disney-esque” with a boardwalk that will run along the river and be dotted by restaurants and retail.

“We are in negotiations with a national chain to be the first restaurant to kick off the boardwalk,” he said, estimating it could be 15 years before the project is fully developed.

River Eagle also still is in negotiations to bring a hotel and housing project to the riverfront site, which will be known as Port of Call Quad-Cities.

In addition to VanDeHeede, the investment group’s main shareholders are Dan Murphy, the majority partner and owner of Precision Pipeline LLC; Rock Island attorney Frank Coyle; Illinois Sen. Mike Jacobs; and Matt Stern, president and chief financial officer of Stern Beverage, Milan. According to VanDeHeede, Jacobs has since reduced his percentage of ownership because of state ethics regulations and has the smallest ownership share.

River Eagle purchased the 132 acres for $1.5 million a year ago from Fiat, CNH’s parent company.

For East Moline Mayor John Thodos, the long-awaited project is welcome news for his city, which suffered a huge economic blow when CNH closed its doors.

He said the retail and amenities that the project will bring to East Moline are exciting. He also is anxious for a hotel because the city now has no hotels within the city limits. “All this will allow East Moline to be part of a destination.”

Thodos said the city council approved a development agreement for the project earlier this month. Monday’s meeting marked the third and final reading for the TIF agreement. Under the agreement, 80 percent of the new property tax dollars generated will go into a TIF fund and 20 percent will go to the city.

He said the developers will be able to be reimbursed for TIF-eligible expenses, such as cleanup, infrastructure and other costs. But Thodos stressed that tax dollars can only be paid out “if they build something there.” 

“In a lot of projects we’re putting in the infrastructure,” he said, adding that in this project “the city has not exposed itself.” “We’re not putting in the infrastructure on this one.”

The project is located just more than a mile from the Western Illinois University’s Quad-City riverfront campus in Moline. Thodos expects that to be a huge draw for students and staff who will be at the new campus beginning in January. “They (Moline) might have the campus, but we’re going try real hard to have the amenities,” he added.

The initial projects will occupy about one-third of the site’s 125 buildable acres. VanDeHeede said the project is being bid out to area construction companies and will create local construction jobs.

Originally, the project was slated to break ground last spring. But creating a TIF district took longer than expected, VanDeHeede said.