Bettendorf staffers and local stakeholders on Wednesday discussed possible business use restrictions and broader development goals for the growing downtown, continuing a longstanding conversation around how the city that bills itself as a premier place to live can become better.
City leaders held the public meeting in City Hall to seek input from the business community as proposed changes to Bettendorf’s Downtown Master Plan move through the pipeline. On the table is a revision that would restrict certain business types from setting up shop downtown.
The broadly outlined goal is to encourage a more walkable, thriving district complete with elements typical of a downtown — such as more retail shops and places to dine. Economic Development Director Jeff Reiter said the city has received requests to evaluate the future of undeveloped downtown land and is thinking about the revision to the master plan as a way to achieve that goal.
“We do have the capacity to control or limit certain things if it makes sense for urban revitalization and it helps with economic growth and development,” Reiter said, adding: “As we look at this we’re not suggesting it’s going to happen, but we do want to consider it because we’ve been asked to look at this.”
Possible business types identified for restriction include gas stations, adult entertainment, liquor stores, tattoo parlors, vape shops, firearms dealers, pawn shops, car dealerships and storage facilities. Those proposed restrictions would only apply to future uses, meaning the existing downtown businesses that fit such a description would be unaffected if any changes to the master plan are made.
About 20 people showed up to Wednesday’s meeting, including area business owners and local real estate developers. Among those sharing ideas was Bobby Bunch, who recently moved to Bettendorf from LeClaire.
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Bunch, an area entertainer and event planner, said the downtown district presents opportunities for the city to define itself as unique among the Quad-Cities. He compared Bettendorf to LeClaire and Davenport, saying those downtowns have seen success over the years thanks in part to a wide variety of options within walking distance.
“This is an opportunity to create that identity so that we’re not just different pockets of things to do in Bettendorf — where there is one central hub that brings people down here,” Bunch said.
Other general thoughts floated by the group included increased parking availability downtown, capturing commuters from the ongoing I-74 project and the use of tax incentives for economic development downtown.
Recommendations and insights offered by the group during Wednesday’s meeting are to be passed on to the Planning and Zoning Commission in September. From there, Reiter said the commission could recommend a change to the city’s master plan for council to consider, seek additional input from the community or drop the whole thing.
The proposed revision to the Downtown Master Plan comes as Bettendorf leaders have sought for years to spur economic development in the downtown corridor similar to the way that other local cities have done. And recent policies put in place in City Hall are aimed toward that end.
In August, for example, the city created a special taxing district for commercial property owners. Money collected will be managed by the Downtown Bettendorf Organization, a division of the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce, for investments aimed toward sprucing up the defined downtown area.