Consensus sought by city council on riverfront/downtown redevelopment plans

In a rare public discussion among Bettendorf aldermen about downtown and riverfront redevelopment, the city council and staff this week conceded they have no consensus on where they're headed and agreed to work toward a unified vision for the area.

The city has accumulated four different concept plans over the past 10 years for downtown and riverfront redevelopment, including the most recent version developed by RDG Consultants as part of the city's new comprehensive plan. A master plan from 2009 included specific street-scaping standards for the Grant and State Street corridors and called for development of a park-like city block between State and Grant Streets and 20th and 21st Streets.

Even the name of the block is a work-in-progress with the proposed green space variously called City Square, Town Center and Waterfront Commons.

One focus of Monday's (1/26) council discussion was whether the block should be green space or a mixed use area including retail buildings and other features such as fountains, a spray park or ice skating area.

First Ward Alderman Dean Mayne likes the idea of an open green space providing a calming area for walking or relaxing.

Third Ward Alderwoman Debe LaMar questioned whether people, including those using the adjacent QC Waterfront Convention Center, would use an area of mostly green space with sidewalks and benches. "I asked (myself) if I was at the Waterfront Convention Center at some event, what would make me walk across the street to this park after the event. Nothing. There's no reason I would walk across this busy highway to go walk on a sidewalk that's shaped like a 'B,'" LaMar said.

She said other gathering places for events downtown are available, and an area for outdoor events would not get much use downtown.

She favors a combined mixed use area which small commercial shops along with some green space, benches and fountains for the City Square, and suggested the city consider building "spec" buildings for commercial retail development which would showcase what types of materials and look the redeveloped downtown should have.

Mayor Bob Gallahger called on the council to "reunify" the vision for downtown using parts of the various plans previously developed by the city.

Second Ward Alderman Scott Naumann said a town square with just green space had "limited functionality." He would like to see the area developed so that it attracts people and business to the downtown.

Fifth Ward Alderman Scott Webster also favored a town square development that would be "a catalyst" for the downtown.

He also questioned the viability of a pedestrian alleyway contained in the most recent downtown plan saying adjacent businesses would not want a walkway going across their drive-thru lane or parking lot.

Adding to the debate over the so-called City Square concept has been the interest Ross' Restaurant has expressed in the site. Ross' will have to relocate because of the Interstate 74 bridge project, and the owners have sent the city a letter asking about the property. (Ross' Restaurant has since announced it had purchased the vacant Frank's Pizza building near the intersection of 53rd Avenue and 18th Street.)

Aldermen also express frustration with the lack of development along the riverfront.

City Administrator Decker Ploehn said he and the mayor have met recently with Green Bridge Development (owned by the Goldstein family) to discuss ways to encourage development of its riverfront property. Green Bridge owns the riverfront upstream from the Isle of Capri Casino and downstream from the casino to Leach Park.

CLICK HERE to view the meeting video of the 1/26 city council policy meeting.

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