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Apartments planned for downtown Davenport bank drive-thru

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A Quad-City developer is planning a 120-unit apartment building downtown Davenport in place of a former Wells Fargo bank drive-thru.

It's one building in an ongoing wave of conversions of downtown properties into apartments. This one is particularly high profile, given its location just south of the downtown public library at 3rd and Main streets.

The developer, Davenport Bank Apartments-owner Rodney Blackwell, plans to build a four-story, 120-unit apartment building at an estimated cost of $9 million, according to an application for a tax exemption submitted to the city of Davenport. Blackwell expects demolition to begin soon and for construction to wrap up in December 2022.

Davenport has approved a full 100% tax exemption over 10 years on an increase in property value, and Rockwell is seeking an Iowa Workforce Housing Tax Credit.

It's one of at least eight Davenport properties applying for the state program that have gone before Davenport aldermen in the last month.

The Iowa Economic Development Authority fielded 137 applications for workforce housing tax credits in 2021 and awarded close to $30 million to 49 projects across the state. In 2022, with applications due July 1, the state agency plans to award $35 million. The grant puts a cost-of-construction limit per unit, but doesn't cap rent at a certain amount. 

Other major projects in downtown Davenport seeking state funds in the 2023 round include a 40-unit renovation at Mississippi Plaza, 201 N. Harrison St., and a 79-unit renovation at 324 Main St., the Davenport building.

According to a first quarter 2022 Downtown Davenport Partnership survey of apartment companies, between 2020 and 2026, so far, 254 units have been built, are under construction or are planned. However, it estimates the downtown needs 200 more market-rate units to meet demand in the next five years.

Average rent for a one-bedroom apartment downtown, according to the survey, is $1,046 a month.

According to the survey, 96.4% of downtown apartment are occupied, a bounce-back of six percentage points from the 2019 flood. City-wide, 97.2% of Davenport apartments are occupied. Affordable and rent-assisted housing units have even higher occupancy rates.

Census data, however, shows a more complicated picture of overall housing units - not just rental. The 2020 census, which was conducted during a global pandemic, found the two census tracts representing the downtown had a mix of population growth and decline in the last decade, but the number of housing units did rise in the last 10 years across the board.

2020 census data from Census Tract 109, bordered by the arsenal bridge to the east, Division Street to the west, and railroad tracks to the north, saw the number of housing units increase from 1,056 units in 2010 to 1,319 in 2020, but the population declined slightly from 1,970 to 1,912.

The neighboring Census Tract 106 to the east of the arsenal bridge, however, was the fastest growing census tract in Davenport in the last decade, with its population growing by 10.6% and the number of housing units rising 18% from 2010 to 2020. In 2019, the Gordon Van Tines lofts opened on Federal Street, adding 113 market-rate apartments in a building that in the early 1900s was the factory, warehouse and offices for a company that built read-cut, mail-order homes.

In 2020, two new apartment complexes’ construction got underway — one just south of the River Center and another on 2nd Street planned 111 new homes in downtown Davenport.

At least two projects are underway that will double the amount of low-income units downtown, according to the partnership. Five properties had more than a 97% occupancy rate. 

A new apartment building just to the west of the R. Richard Bittner YMCA  will construct 185 units reserved for people making at or below 60% of the median area income, which often is early-career young professionals. And 65 new units are planned to be renovated in the Kahl Building, home to the old Capitol Theater.

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Bettendorf, East Moline, and Silvis Reporter

Sarah is the Davenport, Scott County, and Iowa politics reporter for the Quad-City Times/Dispatch-Argus. A DeWitt native, she graduated from the University of Iowa in 2021 and was editor of the student-run newspaper The Daily Iowan.

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