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Union Arcade renovation

Davenport Alderman Gene Meeker, at large, swings a gold-painted sledge hammer into a wall at the Union Arcade building Monday during the official launch of the renovation of the downtown building into housing and commercial space.

Already a downtown Davenport landmark, the Union Arcade building is getting a new lease on life with a $13 million renovation that will transform the office building into new housing.

Quad-City developer Rodney Blackwell of Financial District Properties and city officials kicked off the major reconstruction project Monday by slamming gold-painted sledge hammers into an interior wall. Ryan Cos. of Davenport is the project's builder.

Blackwell, who purchased the building 15 months ago for $1.65 million, plans to convert the near century-old building into 68 market-rate apartments with commercial space on the ground floor. The historic renovation project is expected to take about 16 months to complete.

"It's very exciting," Blackwell said of the project, which was announced in October 2012. "If you look around, everything touching this block is being renovated."

Among the projects is his company's recent purchase of the former Schneff's Jewelers on the northwest corner of 3rd and Brady streets as well as Restoration St. Louis's plans for a $60 million renovation of the Parker-Putnam buildings on 2nd Street into City Square.

"This building is just part of the community, part of its fabric," he said of the Union Arcade, which was built as a two-story building for Union Savings Bank & Trust in 1915. Upper floors were added in 1924.

Not only will the Union Arcade renovation add to the downtown's housing stock, but Blackwell said the project has helped to fill other vacant downtown space with the relocation of the building's office and commercial tenants. The project also comes on the heels of a $10 million investment by Financial District Properties to create 29 apartments in the Wells Fargo building in downtown Davenport.

Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba said the development continues to expand the downtown's housing stock, which already has seen 350 new and renovated apartments since 2008. "As I've said in the past, downtown Davenport is the hottest address in the Quad-Cities and is growing day by day with a waiting list of would-be renters," he said.

According to Kyle Carter, executive director of the Downtown Davenport Partnership, said the Union Arcade is part of $200 million in development planned over the next few years in downtown. "There are going to be many, many construction hats in downtown in the next couple of years," he said.

"One of the things we're most proud of is we are doing this without any special incentives from the city," Blackwell said. The project will use between $2 million and $4 million in historic tax credits. Love Funding Corp., a nationwide mortgage bank and a HUD-MAP Approved Mortgagee, will be the construction and permanent lender. Northwest Bank & Trust, Davenport, was the developer's financial partner in its purchase of the building.

Plans call for renovating the top seven floors of the eight-story building into a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom units. The 90,000-square-foot building's historic corridors, including the original doors, will be reused as part of the rehabilitation. Renovations will include all new mechanical systems and improved elevators.

"This is a very integral and important piece of downtown's redevelopment," said Greg Lundgren, president of Ryan Cos. He estimated that about 100 construction workers will be on the job.

In addition to spectacular downtown and Mississippi River views, the project will create unique units and floor plans including use of the former mezzanine level.

Thomas Edwards, Ryan's project manager, said the first stage of the project will be about six weeks of demolition and asbestos abatement. In about four months, he said actual construction of the units should begin. "It's fun to work with a historic renovation. We're preserving part of the history of downtown Davenport while creating some new life in the city."

Carter said the project adds to the synergy in downtown. "This building is near and dear to my heart because the architecture is just beautiful. To see it full of life means a lot for the energy of this corner," he said. The Union Arcade project, along with the Parker-Putnam building redevelopment, "that's real momentum and a game changer." "This corner is going to feel more active than it did 50 years ago."