Bettendorf Alderman Jerry Sechser said the city didn’t want to wait until the new Interstate 74 bridge is complete to begin revitalizing downtown.
“We didn’t want the downtown to die,” said Sechser, who represents the 1st Ward, including downtown Bettendorf. “With the bridge being built, they demolished (more than) 40 structures: businesses, restaurants and gas stations. So the downtown needed something to spur and initiate redevelopment, and we’re seeing it now.”
City officials believe the biggest catalyst to revitalizing Bettendorf’s downtown will be the development of The Bridges loft apartments. The $22 million, 132-unit apartment complex, at 1501 State St., is expected to open by late December, according to West Des Moines developer Frank Levy, president of Newbury Living.
“With the bridge development, there was some uncertainty in the downtown about how this will affect the business climate down here for that four or five-year window,” Economic Development Director Jeff Reiter said. “It was important to have a developer like Frank (Levy) take a certain level of risk at a time when the market was somewhat volatile down here.”
When first approached with the idea of building apartments in downtown Bettendorf, Levy said he “dismissed the idea as premature.”
“But, Jeff (Reiter) opened our eyes to the opportunity to do urban style housing in this location,” Levy said. “When I looked into the demographics of Bettendorf, we saw it was half the size of West Des Moines, with equivalent incomes of West Des Moines. But Bettendorf is very underserved in terms of apartments.”
Reiter said demand for more housing in Bettendorf, especially in the downtown, was the main driving force behind the project.
“Around 85 percent of (the apartments are) leased already, so it shows there’s a high demand,” he said. “I think market-rate housing in Bettendorf is very important to have.”
The Bridges lofts, with a view of the Mississippi River, range from roughly 450-square foot studios to more than 1,100-square foot two-bedroom apartments. Monthly rental costs range from $775 for the smallest “micro” apartments to $1,500 for the largest two-bedrooms.
The five-story apartment complex stands where the blighted Twin Bridges Motor Inn was demolished last year. It includes a top floor community room, with an outdoor deck and fire pit, a gym and a parking garage, plus a lower level community room overlooking a soon-to-be-built outdoor pool, hot tub and patio.
Also attached to the apartment building will be a restaurant, which Levy said has yet to be announced. He hopes to attract something such as an upscale burger joint, wood-fired pizza restaurant or brewery.
Bringing more residents to the downtown, Reiter said, could lead to the need for more commercial development.
“It’ll create a need for a grocery store downtown,” he said. “And, we’ll need more food service, retail and amenities like that.”
Several projects are already underway nearby, including Ascentra Credit Union’s new headquarters, on the corner of Grant and 19th streets.
Directly across from The Bridges, Build to Suit has demolished several dilapidated buildings to make way for a mixed-use commercial development, which could include retail stores, according to Levy. Next door, the city is redeveloping greenspace into a 76-spot parking lot.
And Ryan Jantzi, with the Downtown Bettendorf Organization, said the city is working on planning a roughly three-mile bike path to loop around the downtown and improve walkability.
The new I-74 bridge should be mostly completed by 2021. By redeveloping downtown Bettendorf at the same time as the bridge construction, Reiter said, "we're all going to benefit for years to come."