The latest downtown Davenport renovation by developers Amrit and Amy Gill is out of the chute as thousands of Quad-City Times Bix 7 runners and walkers could see Saturday as they tackled Brady Street Hill.
The Renwick Building at 324 Brady St. is the third historic redevelopment in downtown for the Gills, whose Restoration St. Louis development company renovated the landmark Hotel Blackhawk and the Forrest Block project. The $5.9 million Renwick project will convert the 115-year-old building into 18 market-rate units of loft housing with commercial space on the ground floor.
“This building is so beautiful; it really is,” Amy Gill, a principal of Restoration St. Louis, said as she toured the four-story structure. “The views are unbelievable.”
Looking out of openings that will become large picture windows, Gill already was considering the vantage point her tenants will have next summer. In addition to a bird’s-eye view of the Bix 7, they will enjoy the downtown skyline and the river view from balconies that will be installed on the south side — where a fire escape had been — and on the east side, facing the Davenport Public Library.
Built in 1897, the Renwick has sat vacant since 2005. For years, it was the home of Matthews Office Supply, which used the ground floor and mezzanine for office and retail space. “The upstairs was all warehouse space for the office business,” Gill said.
With the renovated Hotel Blackhawk in its second year of operation down the street and the nearby Forrest Block completed, Gill recalled how staff at the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce pointed them to the Renwick. “It was Tom Flaherty and Kyle Carter bringing us over here and driving us crazy. They kept saying ‘we have to do something with this building,’” she said.
Flaherty, the chamber’s senior vice president of community development, said the Renwick was on a list the chamber had “of buildings most likely for residential conversions.”
Over the years, he said, several potential developers had toured the building. “I’d had the advantage of having been in there,” Flaherty said. “Once you stand inside and see those enormous windows (you know its potential).”
After a visit to the building, Gill saw its potential, too. Restoration St. Louis bought the building last fall.
Harper Bennett, site superintendent for A&A Contracting, is overseeing the restoration — his second project in Davenport for the construction company owned by the Gills. He also supervised the Forrest Block, the loft housing renovation located opposite the Renwick on the northeast corner of 4th and Brady streets.
Bennett said crews began interior demolition at the beginning of the year and just recently moved into the construction phase. For months, workers removed interior walls that divided the first floor and mezzanine into office space, took out windows and demolished an addition on the west side. That side also required stabilization work.
Construction included removal of all the electrical and plumbing work, which Bennett said they will begin replacing in the next couple of weeks.
“We are getting ready to start the framing on the second floor,” Bennett said two weeks ago, adding that crews were beginning to do the layout for where the new walls will be. Structural repair work also continues in the basement.
In recent weeks, crews could be seen doing the delicate work of removing bricks from the building’s north side, which had been a solid brick wall, to create additional windows. They also have added windows on the south side to bring in more natural light, he said. “We’re almost completely done with cutting the windows in building.”
Bennett said his crew is more than halfway done fixing the structure on the old elevator shaft.
On an earlier tour, Bennett pointed out enormous, wooden beams that support the upper floors and talked about the cast-iron steel columns on the first floor. “We’re going to preserve all we can; that’s why I love doing these historic buildings,” he said. “You can’t find these beams anymore; they don’t even make those dimensions anymore.”
Gill said the three upper floors — 7,000 square feet each — will have six units with one- and two- bedroom options. A penthouse will be constructed on the roof that will house a fitness center, common space for the tenants and an outdoor deck. Due to historic renovation requirements, the penthouse cannot be visible from the ground, she said. “It will be like a little jewel box.”
The project already has landed a tenant for the ground floor “that will bring national attention to the Quad-Cities,” she said, refusing to identify the occupant.
Also involved in the project is the Gills’ architectural company, Checkmate Design, and Dana Wilkinson of Paragon Commercial Interiors. Davenport.
According to Gill, the living room spaces will be 22 feet long by 22 feet wide. “It’s going to be really cool. We could have put a ton more units in, but we want this to be unusual.”
She said they plan to market the building to executives. Apartments will range from 950 to 1,300 square feet.
Flaherty, who lives with his two teenage sons in one of the Hotel Blackhawk’s apartments, said the demand continues for downtown living. “But most of the really doable residential conversions have been gobbled up.”
He admits to working the Gills “pretty good” to take on the Renwick. “But they’re not going to do anything they’re not ready to do,” Flaherty added. “Restoration St. Louis has great vision.”
Speaking of that vision, “Next Bix, this will be done and people will be out on the balconies cheering people on,” Gill said.