Restoration St. Louis' recent completion of the Forrest Block building renovation is in many ways just as remarkable a feat as its Hotel Blackhawk restoration.
"It was really a mess," developer Amy Gill said of the 135-year-old brick building at 4th and Brady streets.
This week, residents began moving into luxury apartments with 18-foot ceilings, gleaming granite, massive windows and hardwood floors. Less than two years ago, the same spaces were full of twisted metal, broken bricks and wooden floors so full of holes visitors had to stick to the ground floor.
Long one of downtown Davenport's most visible eyesores, the building, constructed in 1875 sat empty and open to the elements from the early 1980s until Amrit and Amy Gill took on the $3.5 million renovation in 2009.
Already, 23 of the 24 units are rented.
"I like that everything is brand new and that they paid a lot of attention to how they set up all the individual units. It's not a cookie-cutter apartment building at all," said Andrea Connor, who recently lived in a loft in downtown Nashville before being recruited to the Quad-Cities by Royal Neighbors of America. "I've been pleasantly surprised at how far along Davenport is in its urban development. It's more than I expected."
Standing in any of the units - each of which has a unique layout, differing granite counter colors and fixtures and room shapes - there is a nearly visceral connection to the cityscape outside. Although the triple-pane windows keep out traffic noise, many stretch nearly from floor to ceiling to allow long vistas down Brady and 4th streets.
"This one is perfect for watching the Bix," said Gill, showing off a two-bedroom on the third floor that allows the occupant to see all the way down Brady Street to the river.
The Gills said their target market was young professionals, and so far, that seems to be the chief demographic. The new chef of the Bix Bistro at the Hotel Blackhawk, Ben Doolittle, just moved in with his wife, Kelly. She said you can't beat the commute, which is a short walk across the street.
"It's a new experience for us, because we've always lived out in the suburbs," she said. "I absolutely love the windows. The light is key. You don't feel closed in."
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Anna Renkosian grew up in the Chicago suburb of Island Lake, Ill., but wanted to live "downtown" after graduating from Augustana College and landing a job with a bakery in the Quad-Cities.
"It's a nice change from where I grew up, but not as intimidating as Chicago," she said. "When people come in, they can't believe this is Iowa. It's a swanky, Chicago-esque type of apartment. I just fell in love with it."
The 36,000-square-foot building has studios and one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments that rent for between $800 and $1,500 with utilities, cable television and Internet access paid. Many apartments open to an interior courtyard, and a rooftop garden will be built this spring, Gill said. The building also features electronic security, an exercise room and a small lobby.
Amrit Gill said Restoration St. Louis is closing on its financing with its local Missouri bank today. The company already has paid back 40 percent of a $1.8 million bridge loan it obtained from the city of Davenport when an asbestos abatement problem threw it off its timeline for receiving state tax credits. The term of that bridge loan was two years, with the city receiving 5.75 percent interest, and repayment is four months ahead of schedule, Gill said.
The Gills said they hope to do more projects in the Quad-Cities but have not formally announced any plans as they work on finishing touches for their first two endeavors.