Originally Posted Online: Dec. 27, 2012, 5:50 pm
Last Updated: Dec. 27, 2012, 7:11 pm

Study recommends light industry for Case Creek development

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By Dawn Neuses, dneuses@qconline.com

MOLINE -- A $31,500 study has identified the best potential use of the 105-acre Case Creek Trails site as light industrial, but recommended further study before the Quad City International Airport proceeds with development.

The Metropolitan Airport Authority of Rock Island County hired Chicago consulting firm SB Friedman in May to review previously proposed plans for Case Creek Trails.

The board asked for the review after it and city officials terminated RDC Case Creek Trails LLC as the master developer of a proposed nine-phase retail, hotel, office and light industrial development on the airport-owned property, east of the Rock Island-Milan Parkway and north of Indian Bluff Road.

SB Friedman's final report, dated Aug. 30, was released to The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus last week after the newspapers submitted a Freedom of Information Act request.

SB Friedman's review included evaluating site conditions and location; considering economic issues; assessing competitive supply for proposed development types; and evaluating demand. According to the report, it also interviewed brokers and economic development professionals.

The report did not recommend the airport pursue retail in the first phase of development of Case Creek Trails. It also did not recommend office development, stating "... no market need for a new office cluster on the south side of the Quad-Cities.

"The lack of amenities for office tenants and workers near Case Creek Trails also makes Class A office development at the site unlikely in the foreseeable future ...," the report states.

According to the report, there is an "unmet demand for new, high-quality, light industrial and flex space that could be provided at Case Creek Trails."

SB Friedman cited a need for speculative space, which is built by a developer or third party before a tenant is identified. The "spec" space is then available to be leased immediately by a tenant moving to the area or expanding.

The report states the industrial spec space under-represented in the market includes modern light industrial with 24-foot clearance; flex industrial space with a combination of warehouse/production space and offices in the front; modern warehouse space with a 30-foot or higher clearance; and small manufacturing/assembly space.

The report didnot recommend the airport board issue a Request for Qualifications for developers because the level of information available "... may not be sufficient to generate developer interest in the site.

"Additional analysis will be required to drill down on the type of light industrial/business park demand, and to assess the financial feasibility (from the developer's perspective) and the financial appeal (from the airport's perspective) of such development," it states.

SB Friedman's report recommends a full industrial/modern business park feasibility study be conducted to identify the demand for light industrial products, develop financial models, assess potential partnerships, gauge developer interest and include a ground rent analysis.

The company also recommended hiring a hotel consultant for a hotel feasibility study. "The study would shed light on whether sufficient demand exists to support a new hotel in the airport sub-market, and would identify the best site for a hotel, whether at Case Creek trails or nearer the entrance to the airport," the report states.

The report stated the additional studies could take three to six months. If results were positive, a Request for Qualifications could be developed and issued.

On Nov. 20,RDC Case Creek Trails filed a lawsuit in Rock Island County Circuit Court against the airport authorityseeking more than $12 million in damages, court costs and attorney fees for an alleged breach of the development agreement.

As of Thursday, the airport board has not filed its answer to the lawsuit.