Development plans for Rock Island’s 11th Street corridor — with a Walmart Supercenter as the major component — will mean the displacement of tenants of the once-vibrant shopping center.
On Monday, the Rock Island City Council will consider an agreement to sell Watch Tower Plaza for $4.5 million to Price Properties LLC, a development company acting on behalf of Walmart.
Despite the inconvenience of moving, the sentiment seems to be enthusiasm because of the opportunity Walmart will bring to the area.
“I love Rock Island. I hope this brings a boost to our morale,” said the Rev. David Brown, pastor of Refuge United Pentecostal Church, located in the shopping center since July 2003. “We have been in three locations in this plaza.”
The church’s current 5,700-square-foot location faces 9th Street.
“We have about 130 on any given Sunday and we all call this church home,” Brown said. “But definitely we are up for it. We are looking forward to where we will be next. Even though this door is closing, God will open another.”
He said city officials and Ted Rebitzer, the real estate broker hired by the city to secure the properties, are working with tenants to help them find other sites.
“We welcome any help that we could get,” Brown said.
Doug Davidson is president and chief executive officer of Hill & Valley Premium Bakery, located in the former Zayre building. Hill & Valley is the only tenant for whom specifics of the sale have not been formalized.
Davidson knows there is much work ahead for his baking operation.
“We are looking at our options. Our first concern is our employees.”
The number of employees has increased from 110 to about 170 in about two years, he said. “It has grown dramatically the last two years,” Davidson said.
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He said the operation likely will have to do a buildout for a new facility. ‘We will be shutting down. It is pretty complex and a long-term project to move.”
Chris Elsberg, a State Farm Insurance agent, built her Watch Tower office 12 years ago. She said last week that she had sold half of the building to the Iowa/Illinois Center for Independent Living.
Elsberg’s new location near City Limits Saloon and Grill, several blocks south of her current building, will be smaller, about 3,000 square feet.
“I am only able to build a smaller building because of what city is giving me,” she said. “The city is helpful in providing a lot, and that was good.”
Despite the hassle of relocating, Elsberg is pleased to see positive movement along 11th Street.
“It will be improvement for Rock Island. It will be nice to have something new there. I hope there will be nice restaurants to go with Walmart.”