Outgoing Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba took a swipe at city council members over their handling of the former Dock restaurant site during a news conference Monday morning.
Under gray skies and with a choppy Mississippi River serving as the backdrop, Gluba gave a speech on the cleared and freshly seeded property overlooking Lock and Dam 15 about preserving the riverfront for public use. He was flanked by members of the Davenport Levee Improvement Commission and River Action's director Kathy Wine.
Absent were any members of the Davenport City Council, all of whom Gluba said he invited to the news conference. To them, the mayor had this to say:
"If they screw this riverfront up, there will be serious battles in the future."
The mayor said he was "clearly proven right" in a conflict with council members over developer Todd Raufeisen's failed office building project proposed for the Dock site.
In 2014, the 10 council members unanimously approved Raufeisen's 84,000-square-foot project over the levee commission's opposition. The privately funded project with some city tax incentives had promised three upscale restaurants, an events center and an extended balcony for river views.
The mayor vetoed the development, but the council overrode the veto, again by a unanimous vote. It was one of only two times in his eight years as mayor that Gluba used his veto authority.
The project ultimately failed because Raufeisen, a longtime Quad-City developer, could not get financing together when his deadline came due this past summer.
As of Monday, the concept of a private development there did not seem dead in the water, according to two Davenport aldermen reached by phone later in the day.
"Anything’s possible," said Alderman Gene Meeker, At Large, who did not seek re-election this year. "If we find a competent developer willing to do that, the council will listen. It will be up to them."
"I'm not going to say something couldn’t be built there," said Alderman Bill Boom, who was re-elected to serve the 3rd Ward, which includes the downtown riverfront site. "Anything we would see on shore probably would line up with the dock to hold (Viking River Cruises) boat. Anything built, restaurant or otherwise, probably would be downstream from the old Dock site."
Boom thought it was "way too premature" for the mayor to guarantee the site will remain green space.
The two aldermen offered different reasons why they did not attend the mayor's news conference. Boom said he had a work conflict. For Meeker, he just chose not to attend.
"I knew what he was going to say," Meeker said. "I knew his preference, his opinion relative to the site. Did I need to go down there and hear it again? No."
He also said he was not surprised by the mayor's choice of words given the history surrounding the site.
"He's going to use the bully pulpit to express his opinion," Meeker said. "If it’s a battle, it’s a battle. If the council chooses to do something, they’ll do it. They’re in charge of the purse strings."
At the news conference, levee commission member Bill Ashton made it clear where he and his colleagues stood.
"We voted 7-0 to keep it green," Ashton said.
Even as the dust had settled after the building that housed the Dock restaurant and the local American Legion hall was demolished last month, Gluba continued to criticize the council.
Levee commission member Karl Rhomberg seemed willing to bury the hatchet, thanking the council for paying for the demolition. But Gluba interrupted Rhomberg to say, "Let's not forget the bad action they took for the office complex."
The presence of a building there has not stopped Shelby Weeks of Silvis from taking breaks working in construction for Labors' Local Union 309 to fish below the lock and dam. At least the Dock restaurant building blocked the wind, he said, adding he could have used that windbreaker Monday morning.
On the other hand, the cleared site "looks better," Weeks said.