Joe Erenberger climbs onto the roof of what was once a bustling Davenport factory and shows off an expansive view of the downtown and the Mississippi River.
If all goes according to plan, by June 2017, the roof will boast a swimming pool and a boardwalk looking toward the river. And below deck and in a building next door, there will be 113 market-rate loft apartments created by the development team of Erenberger; Y&J Properties, owned by Manisha and Manoji Baheti; Levi Riche; and Tom Piehl.
The $30 million-plus project at Federal Street off East River Drive will push the eastern boundary of the current downtown redevelopment housing boom. It also is the biggest of six projects under construction now.
• Layfayette Square in the 600 block on 4th Street, 48 units.
• City Square project in the 300 block on 2nd Street, 47 apartments.
• 501 Brady St. apartments, 24 units.
• Andresen Apartments, 602 W. 3rd St., 24 units.
• Hiberian Hall/Riverbend Antiques, in the 400 block on Brady Street, 18 units.
These projects will add 274 apartments to the 799 that have been built or renovated in downtown Davenport since 2000.
But the Erenberger/Y&J development encompasses more than the two buildings most recently called Harborview that will be apartments.
The partners have purchased a total of nine buildings in the area, several that will be redeveloped for commercial use — including a craft brewery and a vape shop — and others that will remain as they are, rented to tenants such as River Action Inc. and Java Java Espresso Café.
Still, the heart of the project is the two buildings that originally were the office and production facility of the storied Gordon-Van Tine Co., which once employed 350 people.
Incorporated as a subsidiary of the U.N. Roberts lumber company in 1907, Gordon-Van Tine began manufacturing high-quality, pre-cut, mail-order homes around 1916. The kits were shipped nationwide, like the more-familiar Sears, Roebuck & Co. homes. Lumber came from company mills in Washington and Mississippi.
It is estimated that the company made 54,000 homes under its own name and another 20,000 for Montgomery Ward. Hundreds are found throughout the Quad-Cities.
The company survived the Depression and World War II, but just as the post-war housing boom was getting under way, it was sold to a Cincinnati salvage firm that liquidated it. All that remains are the homes and the two buildings, one with the initials "GVT" and "UNR" carved in limestone at either side of the entrance.
Erenberger is using the "GVT" logo to brand his lofts and hopes the area becomes known as Gordon-Van Tine Commons.
According to the inches-thick architectural drawings by Shive-Hattery laying on Erenberger's desk, there will be 15 apartments in the former four-story office building and 98 in the five-story production facility.
In the office, layers of floor, wall and ceiling coverings have been peeled away to reveal the original metal ceilings, wood crown molding, wood wall panels and oak floors. The building also has a central oak staircase.
In the less ornate factory, a striking new architectural element will be introduced by cutting a rectangular opening down the middle of the building, creating a ground-to-roof atrium. Apartments will open onto the courtyard area that will be planted with trees and other materials, and there will be a 2,000-gallon saltwater fish tank, Erenberger said.
A solar array — believed to be the first of its kind in the Quad-Cities — will be placed on the roof of an adjoining three-story building to the east that formerly housed Brown Traffic and, more recently, Isabel Bloom.
The array is expected to produce enough electricity to run the rooftop pool and to power all the "house" lights (hallways, entrances) and house heating and air-conditioning.
Other apartment amenities will be a dog park with artificial grass and a drainage system with filters; eight guest suites that can be rented for visitors; a media room for parties or other gatherings; a gym; and storage. A doorman will be employed to help residents park their cars, Erenberger said.
To help with financing, the project has received a total of $11 million in historic tax credits ($8 million state, $3 million federal) and solar incentives.
Other buildings in the development
The building with the solar array will be redeveloped into commercial space. The latter will include businesses that already rent space there, such as the production and tour facility of Isabel Bloom sculptures, HELP Iowa Legal Aid, a call center, a chiropractic office and a therapeutic business.
A fourth building that is a major component of the development is across the street, on the west side of Federal.
Built around 1910 by the Standard Oil Co., the building later became a paint company that ceased operating in 1982. The building was abandoned and, in the mid 1990s, someone started a fire, bringing the fire department and the discovery of hundreds of 50-gallon drums filled with hazardous paint-making chemicals.
In 1995, the federal Environmental Protection Agency used Superfund money to remove the chemicals, although the city continued to receive complaints about homeless people and gang members trespassing on the site. In 2005, several smaller buildings surrounding the main building were torn down, but the main remained, boarded up, until Erenberger and his partners bought it.
"It was filled to the brim with garbage," Erenberger said. "Filled."
You wouldn't know that today, however, as employees of Green Star Construction, Wheatland, Iowa, is finishing up the rehab.
The first floor will be divided between office space and a retail vape shop.
The second floor will be a microbrewery that Erenberger expects to open in about 10 months.
The final five buildings in the development are:
• River Action Inc., 822 E. River Drive.
• Riverside Groceries, 826 E. River Drive.
• Java Java Espresso Cafe, 836 E. River Drive.
• A one-story building at 819 Swits St. — a tiny connector between Federal and Tremont that the city has vacated to the project — that will be made into the developers' offices and maintenance headquarters.
• A two-story triangular-shaped brick building at 902 E. River Drive, east of Tremont, that will become a massage therapy school.
Estes Construction, Davenport, is doing the residential work and the pool for the Van Tine project.
Other projects undertaken by Y&J Properties and Erenberger are the former Peterson Paper Co.. building at East 2nd Street and Pershing Avenue, which was renovated in 23 units of loft housing, and the former Halligan Coffee Building at 402 E. 4th St., which was renovated into 45 units.