A Quad-City developer's plans for new town homes along Moline's 6th Avenue could help connect downtown with its adjacent residential neighborhoods, including Floreciente, city officials said.
The project includes 22 three-story town homes that will stretch along the 1300 block of 6th Avenue, which also is Illinois 92. Jim Thomson, owner of Landmark Properties, said the $9 million development "is about a month from putting a spade in the ground."
The town homes, which have not been named, will be developed by Illinois Domus, a subsidiary of Landmark Properties. It will be built by Big Dog Construction, Davenport. The architect is Bracke.Hayes.Miller.Mahon Architects, Moline. Rock Island-based IMEG is the project's engineer.
The market-rate, leased units will be the first new construction town homes for Thomson and downtown's Moline Centre, which has seen an explosion in loft housing and building renovations.
"I've had the urge to build town homes because research shows millennials and some of us older people are a whole lot less enamored with home-ownership than we were before 2008," he said referencing the nationwide financial crisis. Citing data from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, he said the percentage of owner-occupied homes has fallen from 67.3 percent in 2006 to 63 percent in 2015. While in the same period, renter-occupied homes rose to 37 percent — up from 32.7 percent. Part of the shift comes from the nation's housing crisis.
Thomson said the lease terms will "be different than a typical lease — we'll do three to five years." He said tenants also will be responsible for the first $1,000 in repairs each year.
"I'm trying to makes these like homes for people, so they feel ownership," he added.
Moline city officials said plans for developing the vacant site were conceived in the city's latest master plan update of Moline Centre.
"Jim and his team fell in well to what was envisioned," said Jeff Anderson, the city's planner. "(The project) checks several boxes."
Not only does it increase housing stock in Moline Centre, but the development expands investment to the edge of downtown near Floreciente and the bluff residential neighborhood. After the success of the John Deere Commons redevelopment, Anderson said "The first hurdle was getting (new development) south of the railroad tracks and past 5th Avenue. The next hurdle is getting down to 6th and 7th avenues."
His vision has been to see downtown's redevelopment spark renewed interest in neighborhoods headed up the bluff. "This is really bringing the development market's interest to the edge of that area."
In addition, Anderson said to date most of downtown's new housing has been in converted storefront and office buildings. But Thomson's project shows "The market has matured to the point where quality new construction is becoming feasible," he said.
Enterprise Lofts, a live-work development, was the first new development, but that project was located in the heart of Moline Centre near the Commons and Bass Street Landing area.
According to Shawn Christ, the city's land development manager, the project's location received city council approval last month as Planned Unit Development, or PUD, zoning. He said the zoning still is B-2, central business district, but the PUD designation allows for more flexible setbacks from the busy 6th Avenue.
In addition, the developer must continue Moline's streetscaping, with its decorative lighting, as part of the PUD. Christ said the project still awaits some approvals with the Illinois Department of Transportation because of its proximity to the state highway.
Thomson said he and city officials are close to finalizing a development agreement.
Moline Mayor Stephanie Acri said the project will be a great addition to the adjacent Floreciente neighborhood and the downtown's gateway. "That is such an important road because it gets so much traffic," she said. "As you enter Moline, now there will be a really cool, residential space."
Thomson, who also is the CEO of Quad-Cities Community Healthcare, a health insurance provider he co-founded in Davenport, said plans are moving forward for a second phase.
He has owned the majority of the parcel since he first owned the former Chase Bank building. When he sold that to other developers, who renovated it into new downtown apartments last year, Thomson retained the 6th Avenue lots. He also since purchased a former city parking lot and a house, which has been demolished.
"I always wanted to do something with these lots," he said. "I'm an entrepreneur and entrepreneurs, when they have capital, want to put it to work."