Despite unanimously passing the first consideration of Palmer College of Chiropractic’s request to rezone almost 38 acres around the school to a Planned Institutional District, the Davenport City Council recognized there are still some things about the college’s development plans that need to be addressed.
The vote came during the regularly scheduled city council meeting Wednesday at Davenport City Hall.
Sue Ramsett, general manager at KWQC-TV6 which sits on Brady Street almost surrounded by the college’s property, said that the station, located at 805 Brady St.
Access to the building is already tough enough for employees who have to come and go at all hours of the day and night, she said.
There already are safety concerns with the bumper-to-bumper parking along Perry Street, she said, adding that, “it is not unusual for groups of pedestrians to walk in the middle of the driveway.”
The driveway she is referring to is an alleyway that leads from Brady Street to Perry Street. It is this alleyway that KWQC employees use to access parking next their building, and access a parking lot just off Perry Street that KWQC uses also needs to use for employee and company vehicle parking.
Ramsett said that KWQC employees are very vigilant when pulling into the parking areas for the building, but it will enhance safety concerns, she said.
Ramsett added that the station representatives would like to sit down with Palmer officials and city staff to discuss Palmer’s plans and consider alternatives, if needed.
Heather Keyt, of Davenport, voiced concerns about the people who could be displaced by Palmer’s purchase of properties around the area as well as the college’s new construction.
There is a need to improve access to affordable housing south of Locust Street to the downtown area, she said.
As for people who are in rental houses in the PID that Palmer might own in the future, Keyt said that, “We don’t need to assume we’re going to kick those people out.”
Still, Palmer’s plan has many upsides to it, said Ron Schwener, when he spoke before council members.
“It’s an interesting endeavor that a college wants to spend $50 million in this town and wants nothing in return,” Schwener said. “The dollar-for-dollar impact this will have on the City of Davenport astonishes me.
“Folks, we’ve got some big things this town has done, and there’s more to come,” he said.
It is necessary to grow the tax base and draw people in, he added. While the plan is not perfect, it means growth, not just for Palmer, but for the city.
“This is progress,” Schwener said. “I hope the city will take a good look at this and see the benefit.”
Gary Schoenbeck, a contractor from Chicago who lives in Davenport, said he owns five buildings around Palmer, two of which are “right in the middle of this.”
Schoenbeck said his father graduated from Palmer College in 1945. He has been offered the opportunity to buy several more houses in the area, but passed on them with good reason.
“If I’m scared to remodel a building you should be scared,” he said to the council. Those boarded-up buildings and the properties that have not been kept up by their owners need to come down.
“I feel Palmer is getting a bad rep by buying up these houses,” Schoenbeck said. “Palmer is doing what they have to do to compete with the rest of the chiropractic schools in the nation. These houses are never going to be redone because they can’t be redone. They have to go as far as I’m concerned.
“Palmer brings in families from out of state and these people see the campus and Palmer has to convince them to rent in the area,” he said.
Alderwoman Marion McGinnis, 3rd Ward, said she wants to make sure historical homes and buildings in the area are not subject to being torn down.
Palmer’s investment in the PID will be over 10 years.
The boundary of the PID roughly is 12th Street on the north; Pershing Avenue on the east; Harrison Street on the west; and 6th Street on the south, including the Perry Hill Student Residences, which are not contiguous but now are part of Palmer's campus and its growing student housing.
Under Palmer's proposal, several city streets would be vacated including: closing the blocks on 7th and 8th streets between Main and Brady streets; closing Palmer Drive between Brady and Perry streets; and closing 10th and 11th streets between Perry Street and Pershing Avenue.
Palmer estimates its own area spending combined with its students' spending create a $150 million economic impact on the Quad-City economy.
The plans include development on properties, including residential homes and commercial buildings that Palmer does not yet own.
The Plan and Zoning Commission unanimously recommended the approval to rezone the nearly 38 acres in February.
The city council will listen to the second consideration on the matter at the next City Council meeting.
In other business, the council approved its consent agenda which included licenses for the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations at downtown businesses, including Mac’s Tavern, Kilkenny’s Pub & Eatery, Front Street Brewery, The Office, and Shenanigans. Last year the city denied a license to Shenanigans for St. Patrick’s Day based on safety concerns.