Houses on the Move: Unique Urban Infill Project Solves Two Problems PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Civic News & Info
Written by T. Brecht   
Tuesday, 06 May 2014 07:55

The section of Davenport's 6th Street that winds behind the Republic Companies and Harborview buildings just west of Tremont Avenue is peppered with vacant lots, the result of a rash of foreclosures and "demolition-by-neglect" that ravaged the once-thriving neighborhood in the 1970s and 1980s.

The future may be brightening for this corner of the city, however, thanks to a unique public-private partnership between Genesis Medical Center and the City of Davenport.

The solution to one neighborhood's problem started with uncertainty a little further to the north. Last winter, Genesis announced a massive $138.5 million building expansion at its East Rusholme campus. But construction of the new six-story building was expected to require the demolition of 8 to 10 older homes along College and Elm streets in the project's footprint.

"Genesis officials came down to our office to talk about what they needed for re-zoning, and we had the idea to ask them about the city-owned lots we had down on 6th Street," said Bruce Berger, Davenport's interim Community Planning & Economic Development Director.

Earlier in the year, the city's planning department sent out a request for proposals for a designer interested in those lots, preferably one with a unique single-family home project in mind. Unfortunately, Berger said, only one developer responded, and they wanted to build multi-family.

Then a bit of inspiration hit.

"One of the planners said, 'what if we move the Genesis houses down to 6th Street?'" recalled Berger.

It's an ambitious plan. Moving entire houses is neither easy nor inexpensive. The city, however, has more than $1 million in federal Community Development Block Grant and HOME funds that need to be allocated by the end of June or lost.

"It's a use-it, or lose-it situation," Berger said. "Our thought is to apply that to the moving, site preparation and rehab cost once we get the houses on 6th Street."

Originally, the idea was to put the transplanted homes on the city-owned lots on the north side of the street. But a moving consultant said the topography was too steep and the approach too narrow. Instead, the city has secured purchase agreements for several lots on the south side, which the City Council is expected to approve Wednesday.

The initial plan is to start with two houses - 2119 College Avenue and 1312 Elm - that Genesis purchased with the intent to demolish. Genesis is donating the homes to the city and also pitching in on moving expenses.

Work is expected to begin in June,  after the city secures an expert moving firm.

Ken Croken, Vice President for Corporate Communications & Business Development for Genesis, said he's excited to see the homes spared the wrecking ball and used to reinvigorate another neighborhood.

"These homes have housed many generations of Davenport residents," he said. "We are delighted that this project will help see them offer shelter and house even more generations of Davenporters as we move forward with our plans to better serve the community."

3rd Ward Alderman Bill Boom lauded the project for its environmental responsibility, noting that millions of pounds of construction waste would have gone to area landfills. Transplanting the homes - several of which date back to the first half of the 20th Century - will not only re-use existing home stock, but will help retain some of the character and craftsmanship of a traditional neighborhood. Boom hopes this inspires a "green-thinking" developer to take a closer look at the lots on the north side of 6th Street and design an eco-friendly, owner-occupied project.

Berger said the long-term goal is to see the neighborhood bounce back and be a prime target for re-development. The pieces are in place, he said, noting that the Scott County Family Y is planning a large new development on the WG Block property to the west and the popularity and number of apartments in the nearby Warehouse District continues to grow.

"We think this area will appeal to a wide variety of people," Berger said. "Whether that is first-time home buyers, empty nesters looking to downsize or young professionals who want to be near downtown but want to own their own home."

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