About three years after receiving approval of a federal grant to develop a business park in southwest Rock Island, city aldermen will vote Monday night on rejecting bids for the project, discontinuing it, and returning any unused part of the grant.|
In September 2011, Rock Island was awarded a $1.5-million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to support a new business park -- the planned Ridgewood Sustainable Business Park -- at a 40-acre tract of city-owned land in southwest Rock Island off Ridgewood Road
Public Works and Community and Economic Development staff opened bids for the planned park on June 10, 2014. The low bidder was Langman Construction with a bid of $3,427,736.12, according to a city council memo.
Currently, the city has $2.36 million budgeted for the construction phase of this project, leaving a budgeted shortfall of $1.062 million. City staff worked with Langman to see if construction costs could be cut, and $782,000 was eligible to be eliminated from the original design without reducing the scope defined by the EDA grant, the council memo says.
However, stipulations in the EDA grant state that engineering savings would be split 50/50 with the city and EDA. Therefore, savings to the city would only be $391,000, leaving Rock Island a budget shortage of $671,291.12, the memo says.
Finding additional gap financing for this shortage does not appear financially (or economically) feasible at this time, due to the lack of demand in the project from current developers, the memo says.
The EDA has told the city if the project is not awarded and discontinued, they will still pay their portion (50 percent) of the engineering and property acquisition fees incurred to date. The remaining grant award would be forfeited. In addition, the EDA also stated that the city would not be penalized or barred for any future EDA grant opportunities, according to the council memo.
The city-funded portion of the project was financed through infrastructure bonds, which could be transferred to other Public Works projects, such as the 11th Street and Blackhawk Road intersection or 9th Street resurfacing projects, the memo says.
City staff has evaluated future uses of the land on which the business park was to be built, including wetlands mitigation, creating a wetland bank, the memo says. This would allow Rock Island to develop other properties which are currently designated wetlands.
Southwest Rock Island, already home to the city's primary business park, offers several hundred acres for future development. The EDA grant was intended to help reduce the region's economic dependence on the Rock Island Arsenal by bringing in more diverse industry opportunities.
The Ridgewood Sustainable Business Park, which was to be marketed to green industry businesses, was expected to create about 92 jobs and generate $12 million in private investment, the EDA stated.
In other business Monday, aldermen will consider a special-use permit request from attorney Delores Tapia to continue allowing use of her home (801 44th St.) for her law practice. She currently has two part-time, non-resident employees and perhaps will hire another.
Ms. Tapia specializes in immigration law and according to her application letter, has seen her
clientele grow since starting the practice at her home since moving there in October 2013, according to a council memo. The residential district does not allow such office uses.
The hours of operation would be 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays. City parking regulations require at least two off-street parking spaces for the residence and five additional parking spaces for employees and clients, for a total of seven off-street parking spaces. Ms. Tapia has requested an illuminated, freestanding sign be allowed at the property, approximately 8 feet by 6 feet.
She previously had been using a banner-type sign affixed to the front porch railing of her home.
The city planning staff says that the proposed use "may be too intense for the site due to the current and proposed number of employees, lack of adequate off-street parking for current and proposed employees, as well as clients." The lack of adequate parking and proposed signage would alter the residential character of the neighborhood, and the city is recommending denial of the request.
The city council meeting begins at 6:45 p.m. Monday on the third floor of city hall, 1528 3rd Ave. For a complete agenda, visit rigov.org.
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