Downtown Rock Island Director Hired to Help Lead Revitalization
In partnership with the City of Rock Island, the Quad Cities Chamber has hired Jack Cullen for the new role of Downtown Rock Island Director to provide place management services for the historic riverfront business district.
According to Kyle Carter, vice president of place management for the Chamber, focused placemaking efforts are vital to a community’s
growth, and having vibrant and inclusive downtowns helps attract residents, amenities and businesses.
“It’s great to see a diverse group of energized and engaged downtown Rock Island stakeholders with long-term placemaking goals in mind,” Carter (executive director of the Downtown Davenport Partnership) said in a Monday release. “I have no doubt Jack will harness this energy to create an immediate and tangible impact as he helps facilitate consensus and action as the Downtown Rock Island Director.”
Cullen, currently the Marketing & Communications Manager at the Chamber, will begin transitioning into his new role April 1.
A 2013 Augustana College graduate, he joined the organization in 2018 to serve as Q2030 Project
“There is so much potential that exists in revitalizing our downtown area,” Rock Island Mayor Mike Thoms said. “Having Jack on board now whose sole focus will be to bring vibrancy and growth to downtown Rock Island is a big step forward in our overall vision for the city.”
Mayor Thoms appointed a downtown steering committee in 2020 to continue the implementation of the City’s 2015 Downtown Revitalization Plan. The group recommended the establishment of a downtown place management services agreement, and in late January 2021, the Rock Island City Council approved a two-year contract with the Chamber.
Serving as the liaison between downtown business and property owners and the City, Cullen will work with the committee to explore the creation of a downtown place management organization, develop a long-term sustainable funding model and make recommendations on the appropriate use of the city’s remaining downtown TIF funds.
Through this $225,000, two-year contract (approved by the city council), the new director will:
- Explore the creation of downtown place management organization.
- Determine a sustainable funding model for a place management organization.
- Create a place management organization.
- Represent and advocate for downtown property owners, businesses and residents.
- Help the city prioritize TIF funds to deliver services in downtown Rock Island to enhance public spaces, encourage investment and improve quality of life.
- Market the downtown as a great place to live, work and play through website and social media.
- Draft articles and updates on downtown activities for newsletters and website as needed.
- Establish and foster relationships with all stakeholders.
- Conduct community outreach and consensus building regarding urban planning initiatives impacting the downtown.
- Identify funding opportunities through the identification of public and private partners and grant opportunities.
Through the new contract, the city will pay the chamber using tax-increment financing (TIF) funds over two years — $110,783 through Dec. 31, 2021, and $114,107 through Dec. 31, 2022.
Throughout the process, Cullen and company will focus on downtown Rock Island’s placemaking needs, including business and economic growth, infrastructure, livability, advocacy and promotions.
Q-C entrepreneur Matt Stern, owner of the Stern Center performance and event venue and several other downtown properties, applauded Mayor Thoms for forming a downtown steering committee and spearheading the city’s partnership with the Chamber.
“I am very excited about the talent on the steering committee to reinvigorate and reinvent our downtown, and the addition of Jack to help lead this effort is a huge win for Rock Island,” Stern said. “There is so much potential for our city, and I look forward to the transformation.”
While Cullen will oversee the day-to-day management of the downtown revitalization effort, he will also work collaboratively with the Development Association of Rock Island (DARI), a separate entity providing economic development and financial incentive expertise for all of Rock Island, when new development opportunities arise.
“DARI is eager to work in alignment with Jack as we collaborate to help new economic development projects come to life in downtown Rock Island,” said Liz Tallman, DARI Vice President, Development Services.