As he studied the placards containing maps of downtown Moline on which were concepts of what the area will look like when the new Interstate 74 bridge is completed, lifelong Moline resident Frank Ege had his opinion formed.
“I’d like to see more greenspace along the river,” Ege said Wednesday. “Davenport’s done a great job of reclaiming its riverfront.”
Ege was one of about 50 people who attended an I-74 corridor study open house held Wednesday at the Stoney Creek Hotel and Conference Center in Moline. The open house was hosted by the city of Moline, Renew Moline and the Lakota Group which has been tasked with coming up with concepts on which the public can offer opinions and ideas.
As the new Interstate 74 bridge comes into use and the old I-74 bridges come down, the landscape of downtown Moline between 18th and 25th streets and from the Mississippi River to 7th Avenue will be ripe for change.
It is a time of bringing history and art to the riverfront, Ege said.
“David Sears was a pioneer of water power on the Mississippi River,” Ege said.
In the mid-1800s, Sears built his dam on the north end of what now is 15th Street, he said. Sears also built flumes and foundations for a sawmill, and also built a flouring mill, a machine shop and a foundry.
When John Deere was looking for a place to build his agricultural implements factory, Sears offered him water power free for five years if he would build his plant in Moline, Ege added.
“We should have some artwork and some monuments to those accomplishments on the Moline riverfront,” Ege said. “It not only will be for the tourists but it will be local education for the local people.”
Peggy Redmann said she remembered the heyday of downtown Moline in the 1960s.
“Downtown was the place to be,” Redmann said. “It was where we met and shopped. We went there to hang out. It was the place to go. And then the malls came along and the downtown became a ghost town.
"So to get more development in the downtown would be wonderful,” she said. “I’d like to see more greenspace where we can just go and enjoy the river.”
Christie Coverdill said she also would like an area that she could enjoy with her children and grandchildren that she can get to easily.
“I actually don’t live far from downtown and I should be able to walk or bike down easily, and I can’t right now,” Coverdill said. Navigating the streets and crosswalks is too dangerous, especially with grandchildren in tow. So she loads them in the car and drives to the downtown.
When she talks about greenspace, Coverdill has an idea in mind.
“I love Schwiebert (Riverfront) Park in Rock Island,” she said. “That’s what I’m talking about.
Some of the discussion centered on housing in the downtown area.
Coverdill and Redmann both have ideas for that.
“They talk about these lofts and housing,” Coverdill said. “It would be neat to live in a loft and as I’ve aged and don’t have my family at home it would be me and my cats. But they’ve got to be affordable.”
Coverdill said she had looked at lofts in downtown Rock Island and liked them, “but they weren’t affordable.”
“There could be a section that’s senior housing, that would be affordable for seniors,” Redmann said. “We would love to be down here. We would probably get the biggest enjoyment. We could go down to the green area and sit and have a cup of coffee. It would be senior housing based on income.”
Moline Mayor Stephanie Acri said the open house is an important avenue for residents to voice their opinions on how the city should move forward developing the downtown.
“It’s important as city leaders to get a sense of what our community members are looking for in the development,” Acri said. “I mean, there are no restrictions. We have such a vast opportunity.
“We’re looking for what the community wants, which can then serve as an anchor and then we can develop off of that,” she said.