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Now or Never: It’s Your Renaissance PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Feature Stories
Tuesday, 05 February 2002 18:00
Last year, the City of Davenport developed and submitted its Vision Iowa application to the state and received a $20 million grant for various components. This weekend, the public will get its first real opportunities to guide portions of the massive downtown-revitalization project.

On Saturday, four public forums will generate and help refine ideas for the $8.8 million River Music Center – including the very definition of “river music” – as well as the $2.25 million Rhythm Courtyard. And on Sunday four firms will unveil proposals for a $5.2 million skybridge to link the Davenport riverfront and gaming boat with the rest of downtown.

The solicitation of public input is admirable and might represent a sea change from the top-down strategies that have often kept the public uninformed and uninvolved in major public projects.

But it remains to be seen whether citizens will have much say in what these projects ultimately look like. With the River Music Center, the public is involved at such an early stage that people might not recognize their ideas by the time a plan is approved. And input from the public on the skybridge will be informal and might not be a significant factor in deciding which firm is awarded the project.

River Music Center

Saturday’s forums promise to be the most interesting because the River Music Center to this point has been such a nebulous project. The center, in the lower three floors of the currently-under-renovation Redstone building at Second and Main streets, will be adjacent to the Rhythm Courtyard, which could also be integrated into the River Music Center concept.

The process is noteworthy in part because it will reach out to the entire Quad Cities area, not just Davenport.

The two-and-a-half-hour sessions will be held at four different venues: 9 a.m. at Black Hawk College (Rooms 101 and 115 in Building 4; 6600 34th Avenue in Moline) and the River Renaissance Studio (northeast corner of Second and Brady streets in Davenport), and 1 p.m. at O’Meara’s Pub (1733 State Street in Bettendorf) and RIBCO (1815 Second Avenue in Rock Island).

Each moderated forum will include breakout sessions in three areas: education/interpretation; performance/entertainment; and artist services. Public input will also include responses to a print and online survey. (See page 8 for a paid advertisement that includes the survey.)

“All that input will be compiled … and presented to our architect [Chip Reay of St. Louis-based HOK] on Tuesday,” February 12, said Jim Anderson, co-chair of both the River Music Center’s Project Management Team and Roundtable Team.

The line from public input to creation of the River Music Center is a long one with many filters. The upcoming public-input sessions are the first steps of a process that will include two other planning bodies and one consultant.

The Roundtable Team is charged with creating a vision for the River Music Center. Its 17 members – most of whom are involved in arts, culture, or music organizations in the Quad Cities – will compile feedback from this weekend’s public forums and pass them on to consultant Reay.

Reay will return to the Roundtable Team by the end of February with “several alternatives,” Anderson said, based on ideas from team members and the public. From those alternatives, the Roundtable Team will formulate a final recommendation and pass it on to the Project Management Team – the number-crunchers, essentially.

The emphasis on the Roundtable Team and the public, Anderson said, is one way of “relying on the people who will use the facility to develop the concept.” But the final decision will lie with the Project Management Team. The Vision Iowa application listed the River Music Center as a project of the DavenportOne Foundation, and “the Project Management Team represents the Foundation,” Anderson said.

The 10-person Project Management Team includes such Quad Cities’ entertainment heavyweights as Steve Hyman of The Mark of the Quad Cities, Lu Ann Haydon of John Deere Pavilion, and Nancy Donovan of Rhythm City Casino. That team’s primary task is to “to manage implementation,” Anderson said. “The Project Management Team was chosen based on people who have experience implementing projects of this nature. Each member has a unique competency.”

Before implementation, though, the Project Management Team will likely hire a firm to conduct a market study to ensure that the project proposed by the Roundtable Team is feasible. That will certainly involve public input, but not the free exchange of this weekend’s forums; people contacted during the market study will be responding to a specific proposal instead of brainstorming ideas.

It will be crucial, Anderson said, to keep the public informed about the concept as it’s developed to “equalize expectations versus budget.” In other words, the teams working on the River Music Center need to ensure that participants in the public process and potential visitors to the center have an ongoing sense of what can be accomplished with the money allotted to the project.

Anderson also stressed the importance of input. “The public process is absolutely essential to make this project successful,” he said.

Skybridge

While the River Music Center is a project of the DavenportOne Foundation, the skybridge is the City of Davenport’s undertaking, and the process is significantly different.

The city put out a request for proposals for the project and got responses from 11 architectural firms, including three from the Quad Cities. That number was pared down to seven, and three of the finalist firms dropped out of the competition, leaving Herbert/Lewis/Kruse/Blunck of Des Moines, Holabird & Root of Chicago, Muller & Muller of Chicago, and Gere/Dismer of the Quad Cities.

The four firms will unveil their designs Sunday at the Skybridge Sneak Peek & Feedback Session, from 2 to 6 p.m. at the Rhythm City Casino’s Blackhawk Hotel Gold Room.

A selection committee – which includes architects and engineers as well as various stakeholders in the River Renaissance project – will then interview the four finalists on Monday, and Davenport Public Works Director Dee Bruemmer said she hopes the committee is able to come up with a consensus winner and runner-up soon after. The city council will be given a recommendation to vote on at its February 20 or March 6 meeting, Bruemmer said.

Committee members will be present on Sunday to observe how the firms interact with the public, and how the public reacts to the different plans. “It’s a two-way conversation on Sunday,” Bruemmer said. That dialogue will be part of the decision-making process, she said, but it will be informal, based on the observation of committee members.

She added that the committee would only engage in a formal voting or rating process if members can’t agree on a winner. “We should be able to find a consensus,” she said.

The narrowing process to this point has largely been one of experience – comparing firms based on their past projects and other bridges they’ve designed, as well as their understanding of the Davenport community and the River Renaissance project. The design open-house on Sunday will be the first time members of the public or the selection committee actually see a design.

Bruemmer said there are three main issues committee members will consider: the qualifications and experience of the firms; the design proposals; and knowledge of the technical issues involved in building the skybridge.

River Music Center Public Forums
9-11:30 a.m.:

•Black Hawk College, Building 4, Rooms 101 and 115
•River Renaissance Studio, Second and Brady streets

1-3:30 p.m.:
•O’Meara’s Pub
•RIBCO

Skybridge Sneak Peek & Feedback Session
2-6 p.m.:

Blackhawk Hotel, Gold Room
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