Recent Economic Development Activities

The City Council has identified community and economic development as a top priority and has supported a number of initiatives directed at creating and retaining jobs in the community, expanding the City’s revenue base, and promoting the City as a great place to work, live, and play.

The District - Downtown Rock Island

The downtown area, known regionally as The District, has become a destination for some 100,000 people who attend one of the many festivals and weekly events throughout the year. The success in attracting regional residents has fostered the establishment of over thirty restaurants, bars, art galleries, and entertainment outlets, generating significant private investment.

Retail art establishments, such as The Art Place, The ARTery, and Quad City Arts offer unique venues for experiencing and purchasing art while Dphilms, a commercial video production business, maintains state-of-the-art video production facilities.

Services for district patrons and residents have expanded with nationally known eating establishments like Subway and Bennigan’s complementing more unique local restaurants like Soi 2 Thai Street Food, El Patron, Erawan, Huckleberry’s Great Pizza and Calzones, Alanté Trattoria, Moe's Burgers and Brews, and QC Pancake House.

Aside from arts and entertainment, downtown Rock Island continues to benefit from the home office operations of five insurance companies: Modern Woodmen of America, Royal Neighbors of America, Illinois Casualty Company, Bituminous Insurance Companies, and Cleaveland Insurance Group.

Downtown housing has been an area of major focus and investment. To provide both ownership and rental opportunities, Rock Island Economic Growth Corporation (GROWTH) has been instrumental in creating over 150 units of housing in the downtown area. Projects such as the $1.6 million Clipper Condos, the $5 million Voss Lofts, the $5 million Sala Flats, and the newest project, the $8 million McKesson Lofts redevelopment, have greatly increased downtown housing opportunities, expanded the downtown resident population, and helped achieve the goal of creating a downtown neighborhood.

Casino & Hotel
A major change came to The District and to the City in late 2008 with the opening of the new Jumer’s Casino and Hotel. The casino operation moved from its Mississippi River waterfront location in The District to a new 110-acre site in southwest Rock Island at the intersection of Interstate 280 and Illinois Route 92. At $150 million, the project represents the largest private development project in the City’s history. The casino complex includes a 205-room hotel, four restaurants, a 700-seat multi-purpose conference center, a gaming area of 40,000 square feet, and various support facilities.

Riverfront Park
Relocation of the casino allowed the City to reclaim a key piece of downtown waterfront for public use and allowed for the development of Schwiebert Riverfront Park. This $10 million project fulfilled a long standing City goal of providing greater access to one of the area’s most well known attractions - the Mississippi River. The park is a multi-use facility allowing for passive viewing of the river from a variety of vantage points as well as active uses associated with a performance pavilion, a play area, open green space, and splash park.

Looking to the Future & Planning Ahead

Planning for new growth and redevelopment is critically important as the City looks to the future. Two major geographic areas of activity currently undergoing major transformation, with plans for more in the future, are located at the northeastern and northwestern corners of the City - Columbia Park and the New Old Chicago Neighborhood.

Columbia Park
The Columbia Park project entails conversion of the old International Harvester Farmall Tractor manufacturing property into a mixed-use development. When completed, Columbia Park will blend a mix of residential, commercial, and recreational uses. Its 80-acre waterfront location is mid-point between downtown Rock Island and downtown Moline, adjacent to the Augustana College campus and the Quad City Botanical Center. The first phase of redevelopment was completed with some one million square feet of obsolete building structures demolished and the completion of a Phase I and Phase II environmental assessments. Work on the Sylvan Slough Natural Area, a five-acre park adjacent to the property, was completed in 2007.

New Old Chicago Neighborhood
In the northwestern part of the City, the New Old Chicago Neighborhood redevelopment is moving forward as planned. A major street reconstruction project was completed with streetscaping, bike lane, and decorative lighting as integral elements to enhance both the street view shed and improve access. Work on a $3 million expansion of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center (to be completed in Spring 2011) and a new public park will soon be underway. These improvements are additional public investments that will complement private investment in new housing and commercial enterprise.

Expanding Southwest Rock Island

Over the past decade in the City’s southwest area, several projects have been completed that build on an already strong warehouse / distribution sector. For example, Performance Food Group - TPC expanded their 240,000-square-foot distribution facility by adding 200,000 square feet of freezer space. Employment to the company has reached 500 and sales continue to grow. Also in the southwest, ThermoKing refrigeration completed construction of a 35,000-square-foot facility and Steel Warehouse Company added 40,000 square feet to their existing 80,000-square-foot steel processing plant. These companies complement major existing warehousing, production, and transportation facilities operated by Miller Container, USF Holland, CCS, Group O, Valspar, and Export Packaging.

Modest, Steady & Sustainable Growth

From a growth standpoint, Rock Island continues to move steadily forward, avoiding the major development peaks and valleys experienced in other areas of the country. Modest, steady, and sustainable growth has allowed the City to maintain high service at very reasonable costs.

Download the 2010 Economic Development Strategic Plan.