Editorial: E.M. dream real doozy

Posted Online: Feb. 03, 2013, 6:00 am
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The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus
Good things come to those who wait, we're told.

That appears to be the case for East Moliners who have watched and wished for nearly eight years for something wonderful to sprout at the site of the former Case New Holland Plant crowding a prime Mississippi riverfront spot. Often a bridesmaid in recent years to the big development in the metro Quad-Cities, East Moline was overdue for some grand economic development news.

Last week, the owners of the 132-acre site provided a vision we suspect was even better than the city's leaders might have dreamed of.

There will be plenty of time to delve into the details of making River Eagle development group's new development plan -- the aptly named Fountainhead of the Quad Cities -- come to life, including who will be responsible for what as the massive project moves forward. (We also hope that there is no push back for the city's creation of a new TIF to aid in the development. The reformation was necessary to clear up some assessment issues. Besides it's hard to imagine a location that better fits the requirements of a tax increment financing district than this one.)

And we trust that going forward any taxpayer investment Fountainhead will come only after careful consideration and open debate. Until, then, however, let's celebrate the vision. As one of our favorite lines from the poet Carl Sandburg reminds us, "Nothing happens unless first a dream." And this dream is a doozy that not only features wonderfully ambitious plans, but some heavy hitters among its team.

The development began its life two years ago as the Port of Call Quad Cities spearheaded by River Eagle principals, Mike VanDeHeede, Matt Stern, Dan Murphy and state Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline.

On Wednesday, we learned that their $1.5 million purchase price investment has morphed into a five-year plan they say will generate 2,000 in construction and permanent jobs and cost about $150 million to complete.
It includes 250 rooms in the Hyatt Place and Hyatt House hotels, a park of more than three acres with a band stand and a sports center, according to J. Paul Beitler, president of Beitler Real Estate Services LLC, River Eagle's developer.

"This will be the largest single multi-use development in Illinois," said Mr. Beitler, who is no stranger to dreaming big. He and former partner Lee Miglin spearheaded the effort to build a skyscraper higher than the Sears Tower. That ambitious plan never got off the ground, a host of projects big and small in the Chicagoland area have. Indeed, its success helps it to attract some of the world's best-known architects.

One of them, Helmut Jahn, is already on board to create a riverfront hotel that he says will be both a place to stay and a public place. "It relates to the river," he said. "It becomes a special place." The internationally acclaimed Mr. Jahn has created more than 100 special places around the globe. The award-winning and influential architect is known for big projects. But, we're happy to note, his vision isn't confined to metropolises like Chicago, Munich, Berlin, Brussels and Bangkok. "I've never looked at a suburban building as being a minor building and an urban building as being a major building," he once said.

What next? The developers say that Quad-Citians could see work on the infrastructure and the park beginning as early as this summer and the hope is to open the hotel and 300 apartments with 18 to 20 months, with retail and other developments to follow.

Cheers to River Eagle group, the City of East Moline and the development team which has crafted this dream. We look forward to seeing the vision become a reality.


Local events heading

  Today is Thursday, Aug. 21, the 233rd day of 2014. There are 132 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: Sheriff McLaughlin had the misfortune to dislocate his right shoulder some days ago when his carriage upset. He is now able to walk about but has a very sore shoulder.
1889 -- 125 years ago: A kindergarten was started in the downtown district of Rock Island with the Misses Dodie Hawes and Grace Knowlton as teachers.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Pope Pius X died in Rome.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Rock Island's new theater was named Esquire.
1964 -- 50 years ago: The J.I. Case Co. plant in Bettendorf will add from 150 to 200 employees by Jan. 1 a spokesman for the company said today. The Bettendorf Works today had a payroll of 1,350, but an increased production schedule will require additional people.
1989 -- 25 years ago: The Illowa Council Boy Scouts of America reached and passed its campaign goal in a drive that began 14 months ago by raising more than $2.2 million for the expansion of Loud Thunder Reservation near Andalusia.

(More History)