At yesterday’s Levy Improvement Commission members nearly unanimously approved a proposal to replace the old Dock Restaurant with a new mixed use four story building composed of business space, restaurants, and a banquet hall.
But commission member Karl Rhomberg stood alone, asking the question ‘just how public will this project be?’
“Let’s make no mistake about it, as proposed it’s an office building. Everyone at all the meetings agreed that a restaurant cannot make it at that site,” says Rhomberg.
He says he backed a proposal that would have turned the flood damaged restaurant into a public eagle and bird watching facility.
He’s worried the current proposal would put land intended for public use into the hands of private businesses, cutting off access to anyone who can’t pay.
“You gotta go in there and buy a $40 dollar meal in order to appreciate the river? That cuts a lot of people out, and it’s their property, it’s our property, it’s the public property,” says Rhomberg.
Mayor Bill Gluba and other members of the Levy Improvement Commission call the proposal a potential “wow project,” a potential destination for out of town visitors that would bring in additional tax dollars.
Rhomberg asks is it really worth it?
“They said we’re going to get $120,000 a year for this thing? A 75 year lease? We’re going to give up this ground for 75 years? For $125,000? Please don’t insult me,” says Rhomberg.
Mayor Gluba and the project’s developers say this is simply a first draft that can be tweaked and adjusted. But Rhomberg says he’s worried it’s being rushed through before the public gets a chance to fully scrutinize the future of Davenport’s riverfront.
“It’s not the developer; it’s the city leadership that isn’t giving the public its opportunity to be heard on this,” says Rhomberg.
Yesterday the Levy Improvement Commission voted to have Davenport employees begin exploring the current proposal before we progress any further.
Karl Rhomberg says he’s encouraging the city to hold several public input hearings to get a sense of how the public wants to go feels about this project.