Critics of a Davenport riverfront development are saying the "most controversial" part of the project is being overlooked.
Under a development agreement for the former Dock restaurant property, the city is to build a "belvedere." In public documents, the belvedere is described as an elevated walkway, which will carry pedestrians to the new development when the Mississippi River floods.
City Administrator Craig Malin said this week that he could not say what the elevation of the belvedere might be.
"There is no specific design yet, and no preliminary design yet for the belvedere," he wrote in an email Monday. "We're just not at that stage of plan development at this time."
When Malin told the city council the structure would cost somewhere between $200,000 and $1 million, he said, he was merely estimating the cost.
But critics of the plan, including members of the city's Levee Improvement Commission, say belvedere is just another word for floodwall.
"This whole thing has been misguided from the beginning," commissioner Karl Rhomberg said Monday. "We wanted a small restaurant to replicate the feeling of the old Dock. Instead, we've got a gargantuan, ugly office complex that may or may not have a restaurant in it.
"I can't say enough bad things about it. The belvedere is just the icing on the cake. Hold on to your wallets, folks."
Rhomberg and commissioner Mary Dubert said they were told the belvedere will have to be at least 7 feet high to deliver pedestrians out of frequent floodwaters. At that height, running from the Dock to the skybridge, much of the view of the Mississippi River will vanish, they said.
"The issue of the belvedere is probably a very controversial issue," Dubert said. "The problem is, it's already in the economic development agreement. It would be my hope there would be an alternative."
Public Works director Mike Clarke confirmed Tuesday that an estimated height of at least 7 feet for the belvedere is "right in the ballpark."
Bill Handel, a Quad-City native who recently retired his architectural career in Nashville and is returning to Davenport, said he has been studying the city's agreement with developer Todd Raufeisen and also is concerned about the earthen structure.
"You're not going to see the river from River Drive," he said Tuesday. "I don't think people realize what they're getting into here."
But Alderman Gene Meeker, at large, said people are making too much of the issue.
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"Oh, my gosh," he said Tuesday. "We have nine miles of riverfront. You can't see the river from River Drive, anyway. We're getting hung up on such a small area on the riverfront. You can go anyplace on the riverfront you want: LeClaire Park, Marquette, Centennial Park. There's a lot of it."
Meeker said the height of the building that is to replace the Dock also is a minor point.
Levee commissioners have pointed out members of the city council have been incorrectly stating the new restaurant, office building and banquet hall will produce a three-story building. In fact, they pointed out, the restaurant is a story-and-a-half, and the lower parking garage is another level, making it a four-and-a-half-story building.
"That area is what?" Meeker asked. "We're talking an acre-and-a-half for that property? Big deal!"
The city council unanimously approved the development agreement and confirmed its commitment by voting to override Mayor Bill Gluba's veto of the deal.
At meetings today, the city council and Levee Commission will consider a land-lease agreement and a parking-license agreement for the Dock development. The Levee Commission meets at 2 p.m. and the city council meets at 5:30 p.m., both at City Hall.