Downtown Davenport has completely different feel from when Kyle Carter first moved to the area to attend St. Ambrose University in 2000.
The executive director of the Downtown Davenport Partnership, a division of the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce that administers the self-supporting municipal improvement district, remembered touring the disjointed and uninspiring area with his parents at the time, but since then, around half a billion dollars has poured into the downtown area for economic development.
As Carter explained during the partnership's annual meeting Thursday morning, the growth and focus on development was no different this year as $62.5 million in projects have been completed while another $108.5 million are under construction and $53 million in projects have been planned.
"The good news here is we continue to see an incredible amount of momentum right now," Carter said. "That is a truckload of money, and it's a lot of money people never thought they'd see in this downtown. That's just this year."
Carter highlighted the work at the Parker Building on 2nd and Brady streets as well as the construction of the Lafayette Square Apartments, 501 Brady Street Apartments, Central Fire Station and CSL Plasma building as the major projects completed this year.
On the horizon, major projects currently are under construction, including the Current Hotel, the Eastern Iowa Community Colleges' Urban Campus, the Gordon-Van Tine/Harborview Lofts and the Pershing Hill Lofts.
The project at Eastern Iowa Community Colleges, however, piqued Carter's interest because of the level of activity it will bring downtown.
"Other than the City Square project, it's hard to argue anything is more important than Eastern Iowa Community Colleges getting its financing done and getting the project off the ground," Carter said. "The financing was mind boggling complex and very difficult to pull off. The fact that this community did it, that we're this far in the construction phase is amazing."
With several housing developments completed and in the construction phase, Carter also gave an update on downtown housing.
The downtown area is approaching 1,300 units and will top the 1,500 mark once the 200 units planned come to fruition in the next couple of years.
As more and more development has occurred downtown, the area also has seen an increase in food and beverage sales.
Fiscal year 2016 saw $16.2 million in sales, a 7 percent increase from fiscal year 2015.
Adding to the excitement, the city of Davenport recently passed a food truck ordinance that permits operations in city of right of ways and establishes zones for use.
"It was big undertaking, and I was glad we were able to work so close with the city," Carter said.
Future plans and challenges
As part of the work plan for next year, Carter said the partnership intends to up its advocacy for the state's historic tax credit program to show legislators why the program is worthwhile.
Carter said the partnership and other organizations like it across the state are partnering on a study to show the economic impact and what the credits have meant to areas such as downtown Davenport.
"If they gutted that program, it would have a dramatic effect on development across the state," Carter said.
If the tax credits were to go away, it could affect development at the Kahl Building and Capitol Theatre, which Carter called the largest of the future projects and essential to get completed.
"Without historic tax credits at the state and federal level, there is no way this thing is going to get done," Carter said.
While there are several known projects to look forward to, one the priorities this year is determine what is going to happen with the bus station property between Ripley and Harrison streets.
"Even if it's not a specific project, I want to get all the parties at the table to say what are we doing here," Carter said. "If you walked up to me tomorrow with $500 million and the best idea ever and wanted to build it here, we wouldn't know how to do it. The school owns the top floor, the city owns the main floor and the bus station is still there."
One topic Carter intends to bring up with the Davenport City Council is the possibility of converting 3rd and 4th streets into two-way streets.
Carter said that the downtown needs to be thought of as a neighborhood and the idea would reduce speeds, improve safety and make a more walkable, pedestrian-friendly area.
This would help improve retail opportunities downtown and also provide an opportunity to look at redoing the current loading zones.
"From an economic perspective, retail thrives on two-way streets," Carter said. "You can see how retail has developed in this downtown over the years. It's more concentrated on 2nd Street for a reason."
A meeting with businesses already has occurredand another meeting with residents will take place shortly with the intent of approaching the council during the summer.
Although there still are issues to address, the area has become an exciting place for Mayor Frank Klipsch, who recently relocated his residence downtown.
"In addition to the great things that have been maintained and developed, it has truly become a neighborhood in of itself," Klipsch said. "Not only is the foundation of the community very solid and strong, it's even more vibrant than it has been."