January 7, 2007

The curse of downtown Moline?

What happens when you take a business that was doing well despite being in one of the most shabby neighborhoods in Rock Island, buy it, then move it to decidedly new, upscale digs in a trendy downtown Moline location where, it's suspected, the traffic in up market wine buyers will drink it up?

In Gendler's case, you pretty much go belly up.

This seems to be a case of convential wisdom falling on its face. New upscale surroundings didn't improve traffic or business, it apparently hurt it. (though I'm sure there are many other factors)

But on a larger scale, what are people missing about trying to develop downtown Moline? What about the thinking that all you need do is gussy up some buildings and then fill it with almost exclusively upscale boutiques is so obviously wrong?

Is it a case of overly insular thinking? That the folks with money to invest in such things only think of what appeals to themselves and others like them to the exclusion of most of the population?

Is it the apparently misguided thinking that all you need to do is tear down a lot of old buildings and put up some parking buildings, finally start re-habbing some older structures in a rather spotty fashion and suddenly people will start frequenting the area?

What does it say that a business located in an ancient wooden building directly on a busy one-way in a shabby neighborhood in Rock Island with next to no parking did better than when the same business was installed in a gleaming glass and steel space in downtown Moline?

What makes businesses in downtown Moline seem to be invisible and often fail? Is it the way it's been developed? The way it's laid out? The fact that there's not a lot inviting about it's patchwork design? Or has it simply been the wrong businesses in the wrong place or poor management?

Several restaurants have started up in the past year and seem to be holding on.

What needs to be done to finally make the area reach critical mass and become a place people actually go?

And on a related matter, it seems the development of the incredibly prime property where Moline Public Hospital and Lutheran Hospital once stood has put the City of Moline over a big financial barrel. The developers aren't anywhere close to fulfilling their end of the deal, and the city is on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

And of course, the city is afraid to collect or take serious action because it would doom the project, which of course, they knew going in.

Is it me, or did the previous administation seem to hand out big grants and giveaways to just about every developer who asked?

And anyone know how many controversial deals Mike Shamsie has been involved with over the years? It seems his name has been associated with at least 4 or more deals which ran into problems.
The city has made nearly $700,000 in principal and interest payments over the last three years on a $2 million bond to fund development at One Moline Place, despite having a personal guarantee from the developer that he would pay the bill.

Officials worry enforcing the agreement could doom the project.

One Moline Place is a residential redevelopment of the former Trinity Medical Center East Campus located between 4th and 8th streets and 5th and 11th avenues.

The city took out a $2.415 million bond in August 2003 to give Moline Place Development LLC working capital for the project, which was to include single-family homes, townhouses, condominiums and an independent/assisted living complex.

The city made the development a tax-increment financing district, or TIF, to generate revenue to pay the principal and interest from the bond. In this TIF, new real estate taxes generated from the development were earmarked to pay off the bond.

Mike Shamsie, a principal in the development company, agreed to pay, out of his own pocket, any interest and principal due on the bond if the development wasn't built out to the point where real estate taxes could cover the cost of the debt.

However, he has yet to do so.

In three years, the city has paid all of the interest and principal due on a bond -- a total of $676,328.

On the plus side, automated garbage collection seems to be working well, and I've seen a lot of people taking advantage of the one free "anything" pickup where I've seen what looks like the contents of entire houses piled like a mountain at the curb.

The Moline police are moving into a new building, if that's a good thing, and road patching and improvement seems to be on an upswing with the public works department sporting what must be millions of dollars in new trucks and equipment over the last few years.

The city's web site continues to improve and offer information and an easy way for citizens to contact officials. (paying water bills online is a snap)

But is the city still paying for the cozy arrangements with developers over the past decades?

And is it a matter of time before downtown actually is a place people go frequently?

When the effort has been going on for 20 years or more, what has made it so difficult to invigorate the downtown area?


At 1/08/2007 3:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Biggest problem is the election of the WRONG mayor in Moline last time so you have a weak leader in Moline.

Don't blame me, I voted for the better choice for Mayor, Pat O'Brien who should have been the winner!

At 1/15/2007 6:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Moline gave money to businesses as loans who failed to pay it back too.....

Who is minding the store in Moline??


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