Revitalizing the heart of Moline, Illinois
By the late 1980s, the Moline central business district that once thrived on water power and river traffic was in serious economic decline. John Deere, the City’s major employer, was forced to close its oldest riverfront plant at a cost of approximately 6,000 jobs and $6 million worth of tax revenue. The loss of this plan only accentuated other trends that were already taking place. Over the past couple of decades the City had expanded away from the river and many of the retail operations fled to suburban malls. As a result, the community had virtually turned its back on the riverfront and no longer viewed the downtown as the center of the City.
One of the first steps taken by the company was the formation of Renew Moline, a private nonprofit organization supported by Deere and several other local corporations. Renew Moline’s objective is to assist the City in promoting redevelopment in the downtown and along the riverfront, and one of its first actions was to hire Vandewalle & Associates to help bring new life to the City’s working riverfront and historic central business district. Using our proven Regional Positioning and Opportunity Analysis processes, Vandewalle & Associates identified the key assets that could serve as the foundation for the revitalization of both the local and regional economy. These outcomes were documented in the initial Moline Centre on the Mississippi Plan in 1992 and its update in 2001.
In preparing the initial plan and the update, Vandewalle & Associates took an urbanomic approach to redevelopment by determining a long-term economic strategy that would replace the jobs and valuable tax base that had been lost. Major objectives of the plan included linking the central business district with the Mississippi riverfront and capturing spin-off development potential of the then-proposed hotel and civic center complex and high-rise office development. The plan also included detailed project implementation strategies, funding opportunities, and project phasing plans. Most of the recommendations and projects of the initial plan have been completed and those detailed in the update are underway.
Vision Management and Implementation
Vandewalle & Associates has played a critical role in maintaining and implementing the collaborative vision for the waterfront. The firm has contributed to project fundraising efforts; developer and business recruitment efforts; and regular meetings with Renew Moline, the City, and their development partners. Vandewalle & Associates developed and refined the project management team/design build management team process, which has been used by the City and Renew Moline for the last 15 years. This highly successful approach has resulted in over $225 million of redevelopment in the downtown and along the riverfront. The process and its partners, including Vandewalle & Associates, were highlighted in a Conference Board report on corporate community development efforts. Further, Renew Moline and the City of Moline received an award of Excellence in Economic Development for Multi-year Performance from the International Economic Development Council in 2006.
The initial redevelopment project (the John Deere Commons mixed-use development) faced several environmental challenges resulting from over a century of heavy industrial use. At the time (late 1980’s and early 1990’s) the term “brownfield” was just emerging as was an understanding of the liabilities and regulatory requirements involved in redeveloping highly contaminated sites. Vandewalle & Associates helped guide Renew Moline and the City through these issues, and the John Deere Commons and subsequent Bass Street Landing projects became model brownfield reuse projects recognized by the International City Management Association and the U.S. Department of Urban Development.
Understanding that future redevelopment sites also would be faced with environmental issues, the City of Moline retained Vandewalle & Associates to conduct an area-wide brownfields prioritization and reuse strategy process in 2006. The City and Renew have since been actively implementing the recommendations of the study, and Vandewalle & Associates further assisted with preparing a successful grant application for $200,000 in U.S. EPA brownfields assessment funds.
This work also serves as a foundation for the community’s next major redevelopment project, RiverTech – a $127 million dollar business park and mixed-use development located next to the new Western Illinois University Quad Cities Campus. The RiverTech site and surrounding properties include former manufacturing opportunities and a large scrap steel and recycling yard, so strategic brownfields assessment and remediation will be keys to project implementation.