The Mills at Riverbend Commons, Moline, is a full house this summer thanks to an influx of college interns and young professionals from every corner of country who are getting a taste of work and play in the Quad-Cities.
About 180 temporary residents began arriving last month at the new student housing project, built on the Moline riverfront by Three Corners Development of Orland Park, Ill. The young professionals, many of whom were drawn by opportunities at Deere & Co., Alcoa Davenport Works and Kone, will put the 240-bed complex at capacity for the first time since it opened last August next to Western Illinois University.
Their presence has focused employers, city leaders and the business community on making their experience memorable in hope that the Quad-Cities will be top of their list after graduation.
"We have a great partnership with John Deere, Kone and Alcoa and are looking to it lasting for the summer and into the future," said Rob Anderson, community director for Peak Campus, which manages The Mills for Three Corners.
Anderson said knowing the facility would be full with interns for summer allowed Peak Campus to "sign more traditional leases with other students from August to May."
In addition to the temporary tenants, The Mills also is home to about 60 students from several Quad-City area colleges and universities, including Western Illinois, Augustana College, St. Ambrose University and Trinity College of Nursing.
"It's not just for Western students,'' said Anderson, a 16-year student housing professional. "I think that is one of the misconceptions that people have."
Although designed for students with its furnished units and dorm-like atmosphere, he said residency is open to anyone.
"The majority of people we attract are students,'' he said, adding that tenants also include young professionals from other area employers as well as some relocation residents who will move on to more permanent housing.
Next phase moved up
"We're over-full, we have people coming in, and they wanted to lease now for next year (August), and we can't squeeze them in yet," said Christopher Woods, president of Three Corners Development, the firm chosen as the master developer for the riverfront property. "That's why we are starting on Phase 2 and the market-rate apartments."
According to Woods, the company is accelerating its plans for the next phase, which will include two 75-unit apartment complexes atop parking garages with 300 to 350 spaces. Initially planning for a groundbreaking in fall of 2016, he said they now hope to launch construction by March 1, 2016.
He said Three Corners is working on revisions to the master plan, which eventually will create a $100 million development on the former industrial site adjacent to Western.
''We're really pleased that students have been receptive to our product,'' Woods said, adding that market studies indicate a need for more high-quality market-rate apartments. "We're prepared to meet that demand."
Woods said the two buildings will not be student housing-purposed, like The Mills, but likely will draw more students because of their location. One building will be adjacent to Western Illinois, east of The Mills, and the other will be to the west side near McLaughlin Body.
"The city entrusted us with stewardship of this project, and we're treating it like a legacy project," he said.
"With interns from all over the U.S., we get the opportunity to introduce them to the Quad-Cities and some of the unique things we have here," said Anderson, who lives at The Mills. "Part of my job responsibility is to be like a concierge and refer people to the resources they need."
In addition to Quad-City natives, Anderson said he has residents from a variety of states, including North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Florida, Missouri, New Jersey and Indiana, as well as Puerto Rico.
Among the new residents is Kaylynn Hatting, an Iowa State University senior, working her second summer as an intern at Alcoa Davenport Works' environmental, health and safety department.
"Last year, we lived at Augustana in the dorms. The Mills is awesome," she said, listing amenities that include having her own kitchen, air conditioning, furnishings and washer and dryer.
"As an intern, you think you're going to be living in some not-so-nice place, and here I am living in a place that has never even been lived in," said Hatting, 20, of Grinnell, Iowa. "It's nice to have a bunch of college students here; it makes me feel like I'm back in Ames."
Jaime McLean, an Augustana sophomore and intern at Edgerton Women's Center, Davenport, took up tenancy in June.
"This was an easy step for the first time not living at home," the Moline woman said. "It's a nice transition from the dorm to apartment life."
Graduate student Katelyn Horberg of Cambridge, Ill., appreciates the short walk she has to classes at Western and her job at Milltown Coffee as well as how easily she can walk or bike to downtown.
"Furnished units are convenient for students who have not yet settled," she said, adding she was drawn by the bike path across the street and the expansive river views. "I can see Iowa from my 'house.'"
Future Q-C workers, residents
Janet Mathis, the director of Renew Moline, said having all the interns living in one location presents "a great opportunity" to introduce them to the whole community. While one of the goals definitely is "to keep them here, at the same time they are bringing a different dynamic and new money into the economy. It's also good for us to see what this next generation of workers is looking for as far as places to live."
Acclimating the interns to the community also could help in job recruitment, said Jaime Reyes, human resources business partner at Alcoa in Riverdale. "We recruit regionally for college interns and recruit nationally for technical-skill talent."
Reyes, who reached out to The Mills to house Alcoa's interns, said the company subsidizes housing for them.
"I think the amenities they are offering were one of the things that drew me," he said. "We want to make it a positive experience for them."
He added that Alcoa's interns are provided with "real-life projects and useful projects that are meaningful." On average each year, Reyes said, two interns "are converted to full-time employees at Davenport Works."
Elevator and escalator manufacturer Kone will house its new sales staff at The Mills during a training program at its nearby Moline offices, said Adam Judd, Kone's site director.
"They're about 30 recent grads from all over the U.S., who will not permanently work here but will be sprinkled at our offices in major cities around the country," Judd said.
Judd said the sales force begins eight to nine weeks of training on July 13.
"Traditionally, we put them up in extended-stay hotels and apartments, but I heard about the space at The Mills, and it turned out to be an awesome meeting of needs," said Judd, who as a member of Renew Moline's executive board learned of the temporary housing situation.
"These sales trainees will get a flavor of what life is like here," he said, adding that past trainees "usually are pretty impressed and throughout their career, they may apply to come back here."