In the feast-or-famine world of bridge construction, Bettendorf's downtown is in a feasting phase.
For years, we watched businesses in the I-74 bridge corridor succumbed to buyouts by the two state departments of transportation. Most of the casualties were in Bettendorf.
For a while, it got quiet. Then, the rebuilding and realignment of feeder roads kept us on our toes.
Now, every time you cross the bridge, there's something new to see when you look over the sides. Workers on platform barges on the Mississippi River are working on underwater piers, and foundation work for ramp pillars is well under way in Bettendorf.
But we're also circling back to downtown developments.
With the demolition later this month of the old Twin Bridges Motor Inn, another set of developments is piggybacking on the promise of a captive audience.
The 132-unit apartment development that will replace Twin Bridges will deliver hundreds of new residents to Bettendorf's downtown. As is always the case with new housing trends, developments to support them will be in demand.
Kevin Koellner is on top of it.
The president of Build to Suit, Koellner's company is the general contractor for the five-story apartment complex that is going on the Twin Bridges site. Des Moines-based Newbury Living is the developer on the $22 million project.
Koellner has bought two of the three buildings due north of Twin Bridges and has a contract to buy the third. Beginning just west of Bettendorf City Hall, the buildings have multiple addresses, from 1542 to 1530 State St. They've also had multiple tenants over the years, most recently, Blake's Trading Post, Ed's TV & Appliance and, in the farthest west of the trio, Bettendorf Arcade.
"We'll probably come up with something that's mixed-use with possibly a bank to anchor it," Koellner said. "It will be something of some height, given Newbury's project is five stories.
"We've done some work downtown, and it's been a good experience."
Recent environmental reports yielded "no surprises," he said, which means a demo date for the State Street trio is likely this fall.
Meanwhile, city officials are adding more features to their plans to make their municipal campus complement all that is new around it. The fire station will be getting another bay for its trucks, pushing it right over to the property line with the new apartment complex.
And Economic Development Director Jeff Reiter said some changes in the lay of the land creates opportunities for the city's downtown presence. With the fire department expansion, part of 16th Street will be vacated, leaving a continuous walking-path opportunity from City Hall to the pedestrian points at the new bridge.
The drawings for specific landscaping plans are likely to be revealed next week, Reiter said, but some of the elements are certain: A stamped concrete plaza will have a walking path to the plaza at the new bridge. The City Hall plaza will contain a permanent sculpture pad and water feature, "making it a focal point," he said.
"Ours is another plan to complement the growth we're already seeing," he said. "We know that retail follows residential growth, and we look forward to seeing Mr. Koellner's development plan. It's our intent to stay on top of what's left and see more developments that complement what we're seeing now."
Reiter said the new apartment complex is particularly promising, calling Newbury Living president Frank Levy, "a really big quality-of-life kind of guy."
"He has rooftop fire pits going in, and he's offering river views right along a major bike path. With the new bridge, we have literally billions of dollars being invested in downtown Bettendorf right now. Even without the bridge, we have millions upon millions being invested."
Along with the major projects, smaller ones are under way, too, he said. Several downtown businesses are taking advantage of facade-improvement grants, big and small. From an $85,000 improvement at Trattoria Tiramisu, 18th and State streets, to a much smaller facade improvement at Bettendorf Muffler, the downtown work is widespread.
"It's a new adventure every day," Reiter said.
And he's right. There's no fun in famine.