Plans to convert and expand the former Zimmerman Honda car dealership into new loft housing are moving forward as the project continues to seek financing, according to Renaissance Rock Island's president.
Brian Hollenback said Monday that the project has passed the pre-approval process to apply for tax credits with the Illinois Housing Development Authority. "That was the first hurdle. Now we can apply for the tax credits," he said.
In addition, he said Renaissance has had responses from "four area lenders who would like to participate in the construction and development of Zimmerman Lofts." It will be funded with a combination of public and private sources.
Renaissance has the location under site control and has an option with the building's owner, Mark Zimmerman. Hollenback said construction could begin as early as fall.
Plans call for renovating the vacant downtown dealership and building 2½ additional stories it to create 40 housing. The ground floor would be commercial space, he said.
Hollenback said the project, first announced in October, has been cut back from the 45 units proposed originally. The projected cost also had decreased from $11.6 million to $10.2 million.
Zimmerman Lofts will be a workforce housing project, providing new living options for local wage earners, he said. Rents in the mixed-income project will range from $250 to $900. The units will range in size from 620-1,400 square feet.
He would not discuss the commercial tenant except to say "Interest is very strong."
The project also got an assist last week from the Rock Island City Council, which unanimously approved rezoning the property at 1740 5th Ave. from B-3 (community business) to B-2 (central business).
Jeff Eder, the city's assistant city manager and community economic development director, said the rezoning was necessary to allow for the residential use on the property. Without the change, he said the project would have faced obstacles in setbacks and variances.
"The Zimmerman building is right on the property line," he said, adding that the previous zoning would not allow that. "The new (zoning) allows them to build up on the property lines."
The B-3 zoning also would have required many variances to be approved, he said, adding that the new zoning will give the project the right to the variances.
In addition to "adding to the concentration and critical mass of our downtown," Hollenback said Zimmerman Lofts' locale will help blend Renaissance's investments in both the downtown core as well as the Broadway Historic District. "This is in the middle of those two. It links together a good concentration of capital investment."