Some Davenport Portillo's fans said it was a "gut punch" when they learned one of their favorite restaurant chains would likely be built in their neighborhood.
“A cake shake and two dogs from Portillo’s is one of my favorite meals, but if it’s going to be in my backyard and if I lose access to 53rd Street and my neighborhood, that’s concerning,” resident Adam Brunner said Thursday night.
Brunner was one of more than 60 residents at a neighborhood meeting, following the city of Davenport’s announcement Wednesday that a developer is working to build Portillo’s across from Costco Wholesale along 53rd Street. Most residents said they would be happy to see a Portillo's built in Davenport, but begged the city for street repairs and a traffic plan.
Developer William Torchia, who spearheaded Portillo’s opening in Peoria this spring, has requested the rezoning of 6.5 acres, south of East 53rd Street and east of Lorton Avenue, from a residential to commercial development. The property is south of the new Costco, which is expected to open in October. The city Plan and Zoning Commission will hear the request Tuesday.
To make way for the multi-use development, which would have room for three other businesses in addition to Portillo’s, he said nine residences would have to be torn down.
“Those nine homeowners are now under contract,” he said.
Plus, a portion of Fairhaven Road would be vacated, according to Civil Engineer Devin Birch, with Austin Engineering. That concerned several homeowners in the area, who expect vehicles to begin cutting through Lorton Avenue to avoid the increased traffic.
“I have four little kids all under the age of 5, and they like to run in the yard and play. My big concern is for them to have the increase in traffic and then having something happen to them,” Lorton Avenue resident Courtney Wilson said. “It was already bad because we knew it would increase with Costco, and now having this, I feel like we’re getting shut out of our neighborhood.”
Several residents, including Peg Neilson, said Lorton Avenue is deteriorating and not built to handle more traffic.
“I’m not opposed to a new restaurant coming to town. That’s great,” she said. “But my biggest concern is the dangerous situation that’s being created and how the city would allow rezoning when the existing thoroughfares don’t support it."
In the next two years, planner Ryan Rusnak said the city will widen 53rd Street from Brady Street to Elmore Circle to five lanes with a center turn lane. The city will also interconnect all of the traffic signals and monitor the timing from a remote location.
Birch said a firm is conducting a traffic study to learn how Portillo’s would impact 53rd Street. The proposed four-building development, with 208 parking spaces, would share a signalized intersection with Costco.
“I have not been able to get Lorton or Fairhaven on the priority list for streets to be done yet," Alderman Rich Clewell, 6th Ward, said. "But we’re looking at no trucks being able to go through Lorton. Speed limits may need to be adjusted. There are ways we can try to control some of that on Lorton.”
Other residents voiced concerns about flooding on Lorton Avenue and Fairhaven Road, stormwater run-off and their neighborhood’s changing landscape. With Costco and now plans for Portillo's, Clewell said 53rd Street "will never be the same."
Birch said an underground stormwater detention plan should reduce run-off.
Several neighbors said they had mixed feelings about the plans, especially those who are fans of Portillo’s. Casey Carothers moved to Lorton Avenue in October, he said, and the announcement of both Costco and Portillo’s came as a shock.
“It’s hard because I love the idea of a Portillo’s right down the street,” he said. “But I wish it wasn’t so close. I want a Portillo’s in my town but not my backyard.”
While the two-hour meeting was filled with heated discussion, thousands of Quad-City residents on social media are rejoicing at the plans to bring Portillo’s to Davenport.
“I’m really excited about Davenport,” Peggy Hart, vice president of real estate with Portillo’s, said. “We’ve focused on the Quad-Cities for a long time because of the level of retail here. And with Costco coming in, it’s a really dynamic area.”
She said the Davenport spot would be Portillo’s first Iowa location.
Birch said Portillo’s has not officially agreed to the proposal. He added there aren’t plans for what other businesses could open at the site.
A public hearing will be held at the Tuesday Plan and Zoning meeting. Rusnak expects a vote July 2, and then a recommendation could be made to the city council.