Downtown Davenport Campus

EICC, Restoration St. Louis to partner on $50M downtown project

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 Proposed downtown SCC Campus
 Proposed downtown Kahl restoration
 Proposed downtown SCC Campus
 Proposed downtown SCC Campus

from the QC Times

A major renovation of the Kahl Building in downtown Davenport is included in a $50 million plan by Restoration St. Louis and Eastern Iowa Community Colleges to pair up and create an urban campus and more downtown housing.

In plans disclosed to the Quad-City Times on Tuesday, five floors of classrooms would leave the Kahl Building and relocate to a larger, centralized mini-campus in two former bank buildings downtown. The First Federal Bank and First Midwest Bank buildings on 3rd Street between Brady and Main streets are to be connected by a third structure, creating a combined 80,000 square feet with a 1,500-student capacity.

The Kahl Building then would be renovated into 80 market-rate apartments while the historic Capitol Theatre is transformed into a first-run movie theater.

In addition, college offices that now occupy second-floor space at the Transit Center on River Drive will relocate to the new campus.

"The college has been involved in the downtown for many years, and we'd like to expand that involvement," said Bob Gallagher, chairman of Eastern Iowa's board of trustees.

During a special meeting Tuesday, the board night endorsed a Letter of Intent, opening the door for the project-feasibility stage of the development.

Sam Estep, senior vice president of development for Restoration St. Louis, said his company's role will be as "full-service developer."

He said the downtown has not reached its housing potential and demand continues to outpace the supply. In addition to the new Kahl apartments, he said, the company will create more downtown amenities and retail offerings, making it attractive to students and non-students.

"We want to create a vibrant, very alive, much more populated downtown," Estep said. "Our commitment to downtown Davenport is strong."

Meanwhile, college officials vowed to come up with a funding mix that does not rely on any new taxes and does not raise tuition.

Chancellor Don Doucette said historic tax credits on the two landmark buildings (Kahl and First Federal) will help with the financing, and the college will issue general-obligation bonds for some of the money. The bonds are expected to be repaid with income from the new rental units in the Kahl. The college also plans to launch a capital campaign, seeking community contributions of about $5 million.

He said the college does not expect to add parking, saying, "Downtown Davenport has a lot of parking assets."

The college's IT program will be moved entirely to the downtown, Doucette said. About 600 students are expected to make first use of the urban campus, but it can accommodate more than twice as many. The college will save money, he said, by keeping its operations in one downtown facility, rather than multiple buildings.

The new partners said they plan to approach the city with an economic-development package, but they said they do not yet know what type of incentives they might seek. The projects also would benefit, Estep said, from the "good new momentum to switch" the one-way traffic on 2nd and 3rd and Brady and Harrison streets to two-way traffic.

The three-building renovation could begin by the middle of next year, and the target date for holding classes at the new downtown campus is the fall of 2016. The Kahl Building would be renovated last.

Estep described another of his company's movie-theater renovations, which is The Moolah in St. Louis.

"It has the biggest (movie) screen in St. Louis," he said. "You can sit in leather seats and drink martinis. We do practice the theory of induced demand."

The theory that people don't always know what they want until they see it was proven with the renovation of the Hotel Blackhawk, he said, pointing out there was little or no downtown hospitality market before Restoration St. Louis overhauled the historic hotel.

Asked whether the new partners are confident in their estimates for costs, space, desirability and funding power, Estep offered an assurance: "I'm quite certain our assumptions are in the ballpark. We've done this before."