The Davenport City Council unanimously approved the second reading of Palmer College of Chiropractic’s request to rezone 37.63 acres to a Planned Institutional District, or PID, during Wednesday’s regularly scheduled city council meeting.
Before the vote, several people continued to express concern about the displacement of people from affordable housing in the area.
John DeTaeye, of Humility of Mary, which operates the homeless shelter at 1016 W. 5th St., told the council that there is a “dramatic shortage” of affordable housing in the city, particularly for those people and families making $25,000 or less annually.
DeTaeye said there are reports available that discuss the “disparate impact” to African-Americans and Latinos. He added that there are 75 households within the PID that will be forced to go elsewhere.
After the meeting, DeTaeye said that it has been a mistake for people to think about the people who may be left in the PID. “There are hundreds if not thousands of families that have been affected by this PID,” he said. “So, it’s a mistake to look at whose left.”
DeTaeye said that in 2016, there were 1,559 people forced into homelessness in Scott County. Of that number, 401 of them came from the 52803 zip code, which is Palmer College and the surrounding area.
“Palmer is a great institution, and they’ve done a lot of good for us,” he said. “We want them to be a good neighbor.”
Real estate developer Elijah Grant said now is the opportunity to come up with creative solutions to the problems. “It’s important for our city to grow and expand and revitalize, but we also need to create affordable housing so that we’re not repeating the same cycle over again.”
Both DeTaeye and Grant said they had no doubt the PID would be passed, but this was an opportunity to inform city leaders and the entire community about the serious lack of affordable housing and the problems it creates for families.
Scott Tunnicliff, director of the Hilltop Campus Village, said Davenport’s big institutions, St. Ambrose University, Genesis Medical Center, and Palmer College of Chiropractic, which have PIDs, have been at the heart of the quality of life Davenport residents enjoy.
But the problem of affordable housing is much greater than the PIDs, he said, and the city needs to take on the challenge of urban revitalization.
However, Tunnicliff said that Palmer, Genesis and St. Ambrose need to be somewhere, “and I view it as a positive that we have advanced education and advanced healthcare in the central city. They should be part of the process and solution, as well.”
Tom Tiemeier, of Palmer College, said that of 37.63 acres that are in the PID, Palmer owns 32 of those acres. Of that, 25 acres is devoted to the college’s buildings, parking lots and green spaces.
Of the 13 acres in the PID that are zoned residential, Palmer owns half of those acres, Tiemeier said.
Palmer owns a number of the residential buildings, including six large apartment buildings, he said, along with some houses that are rented to students.
Tiemeier said there are 10-12 houses in the area that are vacant because their condition did not create an economic advantage to rehabilitate them.
Of the three or four acres that Palmer does not own in the PID, there are maybe 10 residential buildings, houses or apartment houses, and probably half of those are being rented to Palmer students.
The PID does not require the owners of those buildings to sell to Palmer, nor does it require Palmer to buy and own that land, Tiemeier said.
“This was a process long in coming and we had community meetings last summer,” Tiemeier said, adding that there is no reason to delay the process.
Davenport Alderman At-Large J. J. Condon, said he supports the PID, but that he is thankful that the people have brought the issue of affordable housing to the forefront of the conversation.
“The dilemma of affordable housing is much bigger than this one PID, and the number one topic on the council right now is neighborhood revitalization and how we can make that successful, inclusive of affordable housing, but also inclusive of bringing progress to these neighborhoods that have long been forgotten.”
The tough question to answer is, “How do you reconcile the challenges of affordable housing with the equally important challenge that Davenport is a midsized, Midwest city not unlike thousands of other Midwest cities that is kind of grinding it out and fighting the good fight to stay relevant in the global economy,” he said.
“You don’t want to forget that aspect of it,” Condon said. “We need to take into account the overall health of our city.”
When one of the speakers brought up the fact that Genesis, Palmer and St. Ambrose don’t pay property taxes, Alderman Ray Ambrose, 4th Ward, said that the three institutions have a $100 million impact annually.
“This project has been needed a long time,” Ambrose said. “It opens a great discussion with the neighbors. If there is any displacement I’m confident it will be easily manageable.”
Alderman Mike Matson, 7th Ward, said that the idea of neighborhood revitalization has moved from one of conversation to being the number one goal of the council.
The big institutions in Davenport “we have to help because they provide a lot,” Matson said. “We all have to work together. They’re all staying. We’re all staying. If there are people who are getting kicked out we need to do something about that. We owe them that.”
Mayor Frank Klipsch assured the audience that, “We heard you. This is something that is not taken lightly.”
“You’ll see in the near future one of our top goals is urban revitalization and improving neighborhoods,” Klipsch said. “Focusing on neighborhoods is something we’re really committed to and it’ll unfold so please stay tuned as we move forward.”
A third and final reading and vote on Palmer's PID will take place at the next city council meeting in two weeks.