After a months-long fight over where to draw the boundary line, Davenport aldermen on Wednesday came to an agreement on a neighborhood concept that’s expected to set the tone for new development in the city’s northeast corner for decades to come.
The council’s action establishes new building regulations rules aimed toward shaping future commercial and residential developments in an area largely occupied by vacant land and the Rhythm City Casino. Where open spaces now exist, mock-ups commissioned by the city envision a bustling neighborhood called Elmore Corners, complete with music venues, hotels and brew pubs.
But while a majority of council members have agreed on the general outline of the plan, they remained split over whether the newly minted district’s southern border should begin at 53rd Street and Elmore Avenue or about a mile up the road. The city council voted 7-3 to approve the measure, but only after members spent roughly 90 minutes debating a last-minute attempt to change plans approved by the city's planning and zoning board.
At the center of the debate has been THF, a major real estate developer that owns the Davenport Commons shopping center bordering the Elmore Corners district. City staff have fought for the developer to be included in the new neighborhood, a condition that put the real estate developer THF at odds with the plan.
During Wednesday's meeting, Alderman Rich Clewell, whose 6th Ward, encompasses Elmore Corners, led the last-minute push to include the developer within the boundary line. He and several other council members argued the open area owned by THF should be included to provide uniformity with future developments.
Alderman Ray Ambrose, 4th Ward, accused council members who wanted to include the developer of trying to pull a "bait-and-switch."
Instead, city council members voted to exclude the developer from the newly made district boundaries, following an earlier recommendation from the city’s planning and zoning commission. A decision to break from the planning and zoning board’s direction is unusual for council members, and would have required eight votes.
Attorneys for the developer have argued that the added rules would be “unnecessarily expensive and burdensome” as THF looks for businesses to buy into its vacant lots. They also said the developer has already invested $43 million to build up its Davenport Commons shopping center under agreed-upon terms.
“It’s the right decision as far as we’re concerned,” Candy Pastrnak, an attorney who represents the developer, said of the council’s vote. “That’s what we’ve said all along."
After the council meeting, Clewell said he disagreed personally with the end result, but respects the council’s decision.
“It’s the decision of the council, and so we move on from here,” Clewell said.