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Downtown Davenport attracting loft dwellers
Colt Deitrick and his girlfriend, Sammi Klemme, live in a first-level loft apartment in RiverWalk Lofts on River Drive in Davenport. The former Salvation Army building has undergone an $8 million transformation into units for low- and moderate-income households. (Kevin E. Schmidt/Quad-City Times)

With construction in the final stretch, downtown Davenport’s latest loft housing project — RiverWalk Lofts — is drawing the interest of would-be dwellers near and far.

Located in the former Salvation Army building on River Drive, RiverWalk Lofts is an $8 million rehabilitation project by MetroPlains Development. Sandwiched amid key attractions such as Modern Woodmen Park, LeClaire Park, the Figge Art Museum and a growing menu of restaurants, the project is attracting young professionals, students and families who want to be in the heart of downtown.

“You can’t believe the calls I’m getting — people are calling from Denver, Texas, Oregon. They’re all dying to get in here,” said Robin Peters, the manager of the urban loft-style apartments. “I don’t know how they’re all hearing about us. But it’s exciting.”

In fact, she said with only a few apartments left to lease, the building could be full before it is completely renovated. The 42 apartments are one-, two- and three-bedroom units. Due to the tax credits the project received, occupancy is limited to low- and moderate-income households.

The project marks developer MetroPlains’ entrance into the Davenport market. MetroPlains has hired T&L Properties, Granger, Iowa, to manage the property.

“Our niche is housing — anything that lends itself to be converted,” said Randy Schold, a principal in MetroPlains, a St. Paul, Minn., based-development company. Since 1978, the principals have been involved with nearly 60 historic rehabilitation projects, converting schools, hotels, a hospital, other buildings and even a coal generating power plant outside Omaha into housing.

RiverWalk Lofts is one of five rehab projects MetroPlains has under construction in Iowa, Wisconsin  and North Dakota. The general contractor on the Davenport lofts is Omaha-based Paragon Construction.

The Davenport building is eligible for the National Register of Historic Place because of its roots. Built in 1919, it housed Linograph Co., a manufacturer of typesetting machines. Beginning in 1954, it was used for various purposes by the Salvation Army, including its Adult Rehabilitation Center, which relocated to the former Office Depot building on Brady Street in 2004. MetroPlains purchased the building in July 2007, launching construction in October of that year.

Schold said MetroPlains actually had its eyes on the Mississippi Hotel for its first Davenport redevelopment effort, but got in too late to land the deal.

Meanwhile, the Salvation Army project “came up and went away for a couple of years,” he said, adding that the developer never forgot it. “Location was huge (factor) and this was before the Freight House was being redeveloped. But one could see the potential.”

Schold said the Salvation Army was “gentle with the building, meaning they didn’t insert a lot of new partitions or alter the building in huge ways that would make it difficult to do demolition. We were interested in the bones of the building, the great columns, window openings and concrete construction.”

Those bones figure in very prominently in the loft’s architecture, which includes urban, modern colors amid the exposed structural elements of the building.

As Peters shows the apartments to potential tenants, she said the urban style is a big draw. The tenants, who include several families, all are excited about being across the street from LeClaire Park, Modern Woodmen Park, the Farmers Market, and near restaurants and other amenities. “We’re surrounded by activity,” she said, adding that the river views from all the apartments also are a huge selling point.

Although not all the apartments or common spaces — including an exercise room, community room and the rooftop patio — are completed, Peters said tenants are beginning to move in as different floors are done.

Colt Deitrick and his girlfriend, Sami Klemme, were apartment hunting all across the Quad-Cities when they discovered RiverWalk. While they saw apartment buildings with all the amenities, they were attracted to the building’s character and uniqueness.

“We were blown away,” said Deitrick, an aspiring musician. “I’ve lived in Chicago in similarly restored lofts and these are great.”

“Isn’t this awesome?” Klemme, a college student, said while standing on the rooftop patio. The couple is particularly anxious to have the bird’s eye view of a River Bandits game, fireworks and the concerts in LeClaire Park.

RiverWalk Lofts

Restored by MetroPlains Development, RiverWalk Lofts has 42 apartments. Ranging from 550 to 1,100 square feet, the units include one-, two- and three-bedrooms.

Available to low- and moderate-income households, rents range from $520 to $770 depending on square footage and view.

Amenities include stained concrete and hardwood laminate flooring, central air conditioning, washer and dryer in every unit, appliances, rooftop patio, underground parking and lot parking, free wi-fi in common areas, computer center, exercise room, community room and controlled access.

For information, call (563) 210-8638.

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