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EM project gets Hyatt backing

EM project gets Hyatt backing

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The $150 million development planned for East Moline’s riverfront has taken a key step forward with a commitment by Hyatt Hotel Corp., the developer said Friday.

“The Hyatt organization called us Thursday and said they are moving ahead with us and they are not entertaining any other alternatives in the Quad-City area,” J. Paul Beitler said in a telephone interview with the Quad-City Times.

Beitler, the president of Beitler Real Estate Services LLC, Chicago, has been selected as the developer of the former Case New Holland site.

Beitler and the property owner, River Eagle Investments, unveiled Wednesday details of the project, now being called Fountainhead Quad-Cities. A 120-room Hyatt Place and a 132-room Hyatt House — to be built under a single roof — will anchor the mixed-use development on the

130-acre site.

“The Hyatt, that’s the crown jewel,” Beitler said. “The contract is being prepared and should be done in 30 days. The commitment has been made by Hyatt.”

In addition to the hotels, the master plan for Fountainhead Quad-Cities calls for other developments such as a pharmacy, credit union/bank, drive-thru food courts, neighborhood retail shops, gasoline station, medical facility, restaurants, a recreational sports center for indoor soccer and basketball, 300 apartment units, senior citizen housing, self-storage facility and condominiums overlooking the Mississippi River.

“What (Hyatt) liked about our

proposal was that it provided an opportunity for both an overnight and an extended stay joined together in an attractive format,” Beitler said, adding that the only other place where Hyatt has the two hotels together is in Warrenville, Ill. “But this is the only one where it has both hotels under one roof.”

Another component now being considered for the sprawling site is a convention center, Beitler said. “When we met with John Deere, they said the biggest problem they have is bringing in all their customers and putting them under one roof,” he said.

Developers and world-renowned architect Helmut Jahn, who will design the hotels, met Wednesday with Deere & Co. representatives to discuss the development.

Deere spokesman Ken Golden could not comment specifically on the meeting. But on Friday, he said “While we are keenly interested in all projects that contribute to community development, we normally do not advocate publicly for any specific project and usually believe it is a good idea to have a feasibility study to test the viability of each proposal.”

In addition to Deere, Beitler said other Quad-City employers — particularly those with international connections — will benefit from Hyatt’s arrival in the market. “Normally, you won’t find this kind of product in a tertiary market,” he said of the Hyatt brand.

“One of reasons we selected Helmut Jahn is he is so well-known in Europe and Asia,” he said. “These people coming to America may be coming to an area that is strange to them but they’ll feel like they are coming home to a building that is familiar and comfortable to them because they have been in hotels and buildings Helmut has designed and because of Hyatt’s international standards.”

East Moline Mayor John Thodos said a previous study by REDEEM, the city’s economic development agency, identified the need for a hotel in the city, which has none. “But we were thinking the I-88/80 corridor and that study found these acres down here,” he said of the vacant CNH site. “Everything they are coming up with is things we have known … there just hasn’t been the equity and the know-how to get it done.”

Thodos said the plans for a possible convention center and an indoor sports center will be market-driven.

“We talked about an indoor sports building going in The Quarter 15 years ago,” he said, recalling how plans were abandoned after the investors were stung by the dot-com bust. “But the need for a sports center still exists.

“We work on a lot of things in the Quad-Cities and sometimes they don’t pan out,” Thodos said. “I have to say this is one of those plans where my comfort level is very high.”

Beitler said River Eagle had the vision, the determination and the money “but what they didn’t have is the knowledge, experience and ability to execute a plan to bring the dream to fruition and that’s what we provide.”

Michael VanDeHeede, a spokesman for River Eagle, said the investors needed Beitler “to execute the plan we had for that property.”

“When you get Paul Beitler, then you get Helmut Jahn, Stanley Tigerman, Margaret McCurry and Jim DeStefano,” he said of the other world-class architects that will be involved. “We had grand plans in the beginning of what we’d like to see happen there. To nobody’s fault, they got cut to a smaller level and now they’re back to an even grander level.”

The moment Beitler first saw the development site and its riverfront vista, he said “I almost passed out. (I said) you have the most incredible opportunity sitting right in your backyard, all we have to do is make it happen.”

“What we need to do is have a bigger dream than even the dream you have,” he recalled telling the River Eagle investors. “We need to have the dreams of the people who are the dream-makers — the ‘starchitects’ of the world.”


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