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McKesson project shows off green roof
Jennifer Fowler talks about the green roof on the McKesson Lofts building in downtown Rock Island. A public viewing is scheduled for today.

Outside of Davenport police, no one else in the Quad-Cities can say they have a rooftop garden like the one Regina Stephens and her neighbors will have at the McKesson Lofts.

The city has invited the public to see the green roof recently planted on the three-story downtown Rock Island building, 100 19th St., from 1 to 2:30 p.m. today.

Stephens is one of nine owners who have already purchased a condo at the building, which is still undergoing renovations and has units for sale.

“The notion that it was a green roof was a large part of that decision” to buy the condo, Stephens said. “It’s cutting edge for the Quad-Cities.”

The Davenport Police Department put a green roof on its new station, which opened last year, but the McKesson building is the first residential building in the Quad-Cities with the cost-savings feature.

The garden covers 10,000 square feet of the building, which is more than half the rooftop, with a thick layer of soil specifically designed to hold enough water for plants, but not too much for the building to hold,  said the garden’s architect, Marcus de le fleur, senior associate with Conservation Design Forum of Elmhurst, Ill. They also did Davenport’s green roof.

The amount of dirt can vary from

4 inches for a smaller, growing carpet to more than a foot for small mounds with flowers, de le fleur said. The perennials, including purple emperors and ratibidas, were recently planted and are still small.

The green roof’s construction was covered with a $316,430 grant from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. It is part of a $6.6 million renovation by Rock Island Economic Growth Corp. for mixed-use development with first-floor office space and condos on the second and third floors. The work will be done in early 2009.

Brian Hollenback, director of Rock Island Economic Growth Corp., said the green roof will reduce heat loss, improve cooling and extend the roof’s life span. It also reduces stormwater runoff.

“It’s a combination of what it does in cost savings,” he said.

City leaders hope more developers and building owners will consider green roofs and will ask the City Council to approve various incentives to help fund their construction next month.

“It’s something that’s going to improve the efficiency of the building, and it’s something people will be able to see,” Mayor Mark Schwiebert said of a green roof. “It certainly would be available for businesses all over the city.”

Aldermen will be asked to include green roofs in the city’s facade

enhancement program, which currently doesn’t include roof work, Schwiebert said. Other programs, including the revolving loan program, could be adjusted to help fund renovations that will make buildings more energy efficient.

“I think at this point there is kind of a cost gap between traditional roofs and green roofs, and with our program, we’re trying to close that gap,” said Greg Champagne, Rock Island’s director of economic development.

Champagne thinks the public needs to learn more about green roofs to realize how beneficial they can be.

“I think there is some interest,” he said. “I think a lot of education has to happen, and the McKesson building can be a part of that.”

The city is considering a green roof on City Hall, Schwiebert said, adding it will depend on whether the older building can bear the additional weight. The McKesson building was built in 1914.

Stephens thinks McKesson’s greenery will be an additional draw for residents and their guests, who can watch a number of events from the rooftop with views of the Centennial Bridge, downtown Davenport and Rock Island and Arsenal Island.

“I think the owners will make some pretty good use of it,” she said. “I think they’ll take people up there. I’m anxious to see it” today.

McKesson Lofts project

The former warehouse built in 1914 is a 60,000-square-foot building being converted to mixed use with residential living on the upper stories and commercial use on the first floor. Ten residential units will be available on the second floor and twelve on the third floor with an average of 1,200 square feet. Sale prices will range from $134,900 to $244,900. Today’s tour from 1 to 2:30 p.m. will include the building’s green roof and third floor. The building’s interior won’t be finished until early 2009.

Source: Renaissance Rock Island

Dustin Lemmon can be contacted at

(563) 383-2493 or Comment on this story at

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