As it does for downtown Davenport and Bettendorf, the Quad Cities Chamber is contracting with the city of Rock Island to provide downtown place management services.

A new director for downtown Rock Island is expected to be hired by mid-March.

“Revitalizing our downtown area is a key component to economic growth opportunities for the city, which is why we’re excited to bring this public/private partnership forward,” Rock Island Mayor Mike Thoms said Tuesday.

“Bringing people, new events, activities and vibrancy to downtown Rock Island also brings increased revenue, improved quality of life and greater value for existing assets. That’s why it’s so important for us to make this investment with a sole focus to oversee the implementation of our plan.”

Through this $225,000, two-year contract (approved Monday night by the city council), the

The Downtown Davenport Partnership (an affiliate of the chamber) has existed in some form since the 1970s.

Chamber will hire a director who will be responsible to:

  • 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.

Rock Island Mayor Mike Thoms

31, 2021, and $114,107 through Dec. 31, 2022.

Information about the new downtown Rock Island director is on the chamber website, at http://bit.ly/RIdowntownsvcs, and the chamber is seeking qualified applicants. The director salary will be between $55,000 and $60,000, with plans to hire within six weeks, chamber president/CEO Paul Rumler said Tuesday.

“We’re looking for an individual who will be good in an external capacity – meaning they’re going to be working with stakeholders a lot,” he said. “Getting to know the businesses and stakeholders of downtown, as well as residents and city officials, working in a collaborative manner to bring forward the goals and aspirations of the downtown community.”

The chamber will establish a downtown steering committee to include property owners, business owners and downtown stakeholders. The steering committee will be a forum for discussing downtown issues, provide ongoing feedback to the director and function as a policy making body for the downtown organization as appropriate.

DARI program manager Stacey McIntosh joined the nonprofit last year.

“The growth of our downtown area is important enough that we need to hire an experienced place management organization” city manager Randy Tweet said Tuesday. “The reason we picked the chamber is that they already have expertise in this area; they know what to look for and how to build the process because they’re already successfully doing it in other municipalities.”

The city has implemented some things from their 2015 Revitalization Plan; however, there hasn’t been personnel in place with a full-time focus on its implementation, Tweet said.

With the new contract, Rock Island will be able to have a downtown manager designated to oversee the plan, including making recommendations on the appropriate use of the remaining $1.5 million in Downtown TIF funds.

Quad Cities Chamber president/CEO Paul Rumler

“In our experience, vibrant and inclusive downtowns are integral to a community’s ability to attract residents, amenities and businesses,” Rumler said. “We have a proven track record of effectively managing downtowns, building strong relationships with downtown businesses and working in partnership with cities.

“Each downtown has its unique personality and strengths, and the chamber looks forward to this opportunity to help the city of Rock Island grow,” he said.

The new position’s core goal is to establish and foster relationships with stakeholders while exploring the creation, funding model and implementation of a downtown Rock Island Place Management Organization within the Quad Cities Community Partnership, according to the chamber.

In conjunction with a steering committee and the city, the director will build consensus over a two-year period while working to enhance private and public investment downtown.

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The new director will approve a new organization and funding model by 2023, and the steering committee would transition to a board of directors as appropriate, the chamber said. There also will be a new downtown website and social media presence with assistance from chamber staff

A downtown task force appointed by Mayor Thoms was formed during 2020 to continue implementation of the city’s 2015 Downtown Revitalization Plan.

The Rock Island City Council has approved a new $225,000 two-year contract with the Q-C Chamber to improve downtown management and development.

The task force recommended establishment of a downtown place management services agreement, which shall include activities such as exploring the creation of a downtown place management organization with guidance from a downtown steering committee, making recommendations to the City Council, developing a plan for long-term funding sustainability, and making recommendations on the appropriate use of the city’s remaining downtown TIF funds.

Currently, the chamber has agreements in place to provide downtown management for Bettendorf and Davenport, through the Downtown Davenport Partnership and Downtown Bettendorf Organization. The Davenport group has been in existence since the 1970s and Bettendorf since 2019, Rumler said.

Both are funded through self-supporting municipal improvement districts, in which downtown property owners pay additional taxes to support growth and development of the area.

A similar arrangement may be proposed for downtown Rock Island – in Illinois, the comparable term is a special service area, Rumler said, noting Moline and East Moline have them.

Downtown Moline (depicted in a new portrait by artist Jon Burns) was formerly managed under the chamber, but was taken over by the city in 2019.

“That’s certainly something that downtown Rock Island stakeholders have talked about in recent months, as well as city officials,” he said. As part of this contract the chamber has with the city, they’ll work with downtown stakeholders to determine its future – including residents, employees, property owners and businesses.

Moline Centre Main Street was created in 2009 and became a division under the city of Moline in 2010. In 2014, the program was contracted with the Quad Cities Chamber, and in 2019, the program returned under the city of Moline. The program — including staff, activities and marketing — is funded in large part from two downtown special service areas (SSAs).

Property owners within the two SSAs pay additional property taxes that can be spent only within to benefit their district. Rock Island currently doesn’t have an SSA.

New partnership will not affect DARI

The new partnership between Rock Island and the chamber will not replace any cooperative effort between the city and the Development Association of Rock Island (DARI), said Liz Tallman, DARI’s vice president of development services.

“DARI and the City of Rock Island have been working in close public-private partnership since DARI’s inception over 35 years ago. The partnership has been enhanced to encompass economic development with an emphasis city-wide,” she said. “We are committed to moving

The home page for the downtown Rock Island website.

Rock Island forward together. This partnership has resulted in much to be proud of in Rock Island. We are excited about this city-wide initiative.”

The District was an independent organization that dissolved a couple of years ago, after it had been renamed the Downtown Rock Island

Liz Tallman joined the Development Association of Rock Island in 2020 as vice president of development services.

Partnership in early 2017. Erik Reader was its director until January 2019, and in December 2019, he became CEO of the Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“Our mission has not changed but our work plan has, related to our partnership focusing more in economic development city-wide,” Tallman said of DARI, which started in 1986. The organization currently manages the downtown Rock Island website and Facebook page.

“I see the role for the downtown manager and the downtown place management initiative to be very complementary to what the city and DARI have been working on for an extensive period of time,” Rumler said. “There will be strong collaboration between this downtown position and DARI and the city of Rock Island.”

DARI is a member-based, non-profit organization with a mission to serve as the catalyst to stimulate community and economic development in Rock Island.

There have been many efforts to revitalize downtown in the past, but a dedicated full-time downtown director is more important than ever, Rumler said, since the Covid pandemic has battered many businesses and led to “disinvestment” downtown.

“This is a really good time to double down and make sure we’re investing in our downtown, so the chamber is excited to see Rock Island do that and to do it with us,” he said. DARI’s office is downtown at 100 19th St.

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“This year, our partnership with DARI could not have been more critical,” said Mayor Mike Thoms. “Rock Island is a community filled with resilience and while change is imminent, the commitment and partnership of the city of Rock Island and DARI is stronger than ever before. We have much work to do. I am proud along with the City Council and staff on what we have been able to accomplish this year through this

Schwiebert Riverfront Park (right, named after former Mayor Mark Schwiebert) is one of the attractions of downtown Rock Island.

economic development partnership.”

“If there has ever been a year to show how effective partnerships like this work, it was this year. We started the year by working on an unprecedented Economic Development Services agreement between the City and DARI,” said AJ Loss, board chair for DARI.

“A lot can be acknowledged in efforts that never stopped in 2020: new staff were hired, new teams formed, and with a steadfast commitment by all during one of the hardest times this country and community has experienced due to the Covid-19 global pandemic,” he added.

Since signing its economic development services agreement in March 2020, the city and DARI have focused on advancing economic development initiatives throughout the city. Among their

The Rock Island City Council has approved a new $225,000 two-year contract with the Q-C Chamber to improve downtown management and development.

2020 accomplishments were:

  • More than $70 million of investment occurred in 2020 through business expansions or investments within at least 34 businesses across the city of Rock Island.
  • DARI invested over $620,500 in 2020 through its various programs and initiatives, demonstrating the private sectors commitment to advancing community and economic development and revitalization efforts within the city.
  • A new economic development team was launched, with DARI staff and City of Rock Island staff that collectively served 493 Rock Island businesses last year.
  • Liz Murray Tallman, a seasoned economic developer, was hired as the VP of Development Services, charged with leading the economic development efforts throughout the city.
  • Stacey McIntosh was hired as DARI’s Program Manager and serves as a point of contact for all Rock Island businesses and DARI members, leading the Covid response efforts in collaboration with city staff.
  • Created a one-stop office location for development, business, and entrepreneurs at 1629 2nd Ave., Rock Island. The office is established as a collaborative co-location for both DARI and the city economic development team.
  • Launched an immediate Covid-19 Response effort, resulting in the first grant program launched to assist small businesses with emergency relief grants generated by both the city of Rock Island and DARI-member businesses.
  • Launched FORWARD, a business recovery resource tool — announced in partnership with the City of Moline and the City of East Moline, which also use the tool. It’s provided immediate communication regarding assistance available for Rock Island businesses that helped businesses apply and receive support.
  • El Patron Mexican restaurant is at 1806 2nd Ave., Rock Island.

    87 Rock Island businesses have received city or DARI grant funding totaling more than $257,444 in relief. Of that amount, DARI funded $38,302 with the remaining portion funded by the city. Recently, the City of Rock Island was able to expand the grant program by increasing the amount from $2,500 to up to $10,000 in grant relief. More than 247 businesses collectively have applied for Covid relief grant funding in Rock Island since April 2020.

  • 30 Rock Island businesses were recipients of the Business Interruption Grants, provided by Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, totaling $825,000 in state assistance received collectively.
  • 22 Rock Island childcare assistance providers (both in home and facilities) were able to receive childcare grants totaling $578,904 Funding was awarded from IL DCEO.
  • Launched “RI Resiliency” social media campaign showcasing businesses, schools, and community organizations and their resiliency amidst Covid and its response for the benefit of Rock Island. Over 60,000 total views to date in an effort created in partnership with dphilms and the city.
  • Established an Economic Development Pipeline with 32 economic development potential projects including 15 business expansion projects and 17 business attraction projects located in key corridors.
  • A Talent/Workforce Attraction through DARI’s Live-Work Rock Island homebuyer program helped 28 homebuyers purchase a home by providing $124,430 in downpayment and closing cost assistance collectively to DARI member employees, generating more than $3.1 million in real estate sales within the city of Rock Island. The Live-Work RI program is considered a national model and has demonstrated success through its partnership with Economic Growth Corporation (the administrator of the program), DARI and the city.

For more information on the Downtown Davenport Partnership, visit downtowndavenport.com; for more on the Downtown Bettendorf Organization, visit www.downtownbettendorf.org, and for more on downtown Moline, visit www.molinecentre.org.

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Jonathan Turner has been covering the Quad-Cities arts scene for 25 years, first as a reporter with the Dispatch and Rock Island Argus, and then as a reporter with the Quad City Times. Jonathan is also an accomplished actor and musician who has been seen frequently on local theater stages, including the Bucktown Revue and Black Box Theatre.