WATCH TOWER PLAZA

Wal-Mart to open Rock Island store on Watch Tower Plaza land

2012-11-19T20:14:00Z 2012-11-25T18:00:16Z Wal-Mart to open Rock Island store on Watch Tower Plaza landEd Tibbetts The Quad-City Times
November 19, 2012 8:14 pm  • 

Wal-Mart Inc. has agreed to open a supercenter in the long-struggling Watch Tower Plaza area on Rock Island’s west side, a deal that will require the relocation of several businesses and homeowners but will pay off with 400 jobs, a rejuvenated corridor and a big box retailer that will give residents greater opportunities to shop in their own community, city officials said Monday night.

Rock Island Mayor Dennis Pauley made the announcement at the city council meeting, where aldermen unanimously voted to purchase 10 properties in the area, enter into an agreement to take out a line of credit for as much as $15 million and approve an agreement with a financial adviser to create a new tax increment financing district to accommodate the project.

City officials lauded the announcement for the jobs, tax base and shopping opportunities — and for what they said is the city’s ability to lure a big box retailer like those that have located in other parts of the Quad-Cities.

“I’m giddy about the opportunities this is going to give us to shop Rock Island,” said Joy Murphy, the city’s 6th Ward alderwoman.

Pauley said Wal-Mart plans to begin construction on the project next spring, with the hope that it will open by Christmas 2013.

Before that can happen, however, officials said they still need to come to agreements to purchase other properties in the area — 37th to 41st avenues between 9th and 11th streets — as well as relocate property owners and clear the site.

Some of the existing property owners and tenants will be going to city-owned land southwest of the City Limits Saloon and Grill, Pauley said.

The mayor said the city has aggressively pursued Wal-Mart for about the last year, and he emphasized that it was the city that sought out the giant retailer, not the other way around. “They loved the site,” he said.

Even though the Arkansas-based retailer routinely draws criticism from unions and some others, the combination of jobs, tax revenue for the city — which the mayor estimated would be $1.3 million a year — and revitalization of the 11th Street corridor make it a clear victory, officials said.

The Watch Tower Plaza area, with its signature statue of Sauk-Fox Indian warrior Black Hawk at the entrance, was built in the mid-1960s with a Zayre Department Store as its anchor tenant. But it has long since fallen into disrepair, as bigger, brighter shopping destinations have sprouted up not only in the Quad-Cities but also in Rock Island.

Wal-Mart, city officials said, would change that. “It’s going to bring back a major retailer to a shopping center that’s been on the decline for a while. I think it’s great news for Rock Island,” Pauley said.

Jeffery Eder, the city’s community and economic development director, said there will be two outlots in the redeveloped area that can contain other retailers. He said he didn’t know the size of the Walmart to be built, but the chain’s supercenters are at least 125,000 square feet, he said, though its preferred size is 192,000 square feet. No Wal-Mart official spoke at the city council meeting.

Documents related to the line of credit said about 23 acres are being assembled as part of the project. Eder said the line of credit is akin to a construction loan, but that tax increment finance bonds would later be floated to finance the deal.

Eder estimated that 15 to 20 tenants and property owners are being relocated, and that there still is work to do to complete that process. He said he had no reason to believe those talks would turn adversarial.

The city went ahead with buying the 10 properties Monday because of rumors swirling about the project, Eder said. Some of the owners also had some urgency to sell, he added. Documents related to those sales put the purchase price for nine properties at approximately $3.75 million overall. The city also has agreed to build a new 6,500 square foot building for the Illinois/Iowa Independent Living Center for up to $975,000.

The city is offering relocation assistance to displaced businesses.

Pauley said the existing Dollar General store will stay in the same general area. But he said State Farm Insurance and Black Hawk College’s outreach center will be moving to the site southwest of City Limits.

That area, Pauley said, had once been eyed by Wal-Mart as a potential location.

He said the independent living center will be moving to a site on 11th Street between 5th and 6th avenues.


Previous story: Wal-Mart Inc. has agreed to open a super center in the long-struggling Watch Tower Plaza area on Rock Island’s west side, a deal that will entail the relocation of several businesses and homeowners but will pay off with 400 jobs, a rejuvenated corridor and a big box retailer that will give residents greater opportunities to shop in their own community, city officials said Monday night.

Rock Island Mayor Dennis Pauley made the announcement at the city council meeting, where aldermen unanimously voted to purchase 10 properties in the area, enter into an agreement to take out a line of credit for as much as $15 million and approve an agreement with a financial advisor to create a new tax increment financing district to accommodate the project.

City officials lauded the announcement for the jobs, tax base and shopping opportunities — and for what they said is the city’s ability to lure the kind of big boxes that have located in other parts of the Quad-Cities.

“I’m giddy about the opportunities this is going to give us to shop Rock Island,” said Joy Murphy, the city’s 6th Ward alderwoman.

Pauley said Wal-Mart plans to begin construction on the project next spring, with the hope that it will open by Christmas of 2013.

Before that can happen, however, officials said they still need to come to agreements to purchase other properties in the area of the store’s site — 37th to 41st avenues between 9th and 11th streets — as well as relocate property owners and clear the site.

Some of the existing property owners and tenants will be going to city-owned land south of the City Limits Saloon and Grill, Pauley said.

Pauley said the city had aggressively pursued Wal-Mart for about the last year, and he emphasized that it was the city that sought out the giant retailer, not the other way around.

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