Village of East Davenport looks for direction during workshop

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Davenport residents are getting a chance to shape the Village of East Davenport on Thursday evening. That's when a public workshop is taking place at 6:30 at RiverCenter North.

When President Obama returned to Iowa last month, the Village of East Davenport was in the national spotlight.

"We grew together when everybody got a fair shot," he said.

Hundreds of visitors soaked up the moment in the Civil War-era neighborhood.

"This is your first impression right here," said a workshop leader.

But President Obama doesn't come every day. That's why East Village residents and merchants are talking about heritage planning. Artist Sandy Winborn is helping to plan a neighborhood in transition.

"I think it's lost its way," she said. "And now, we're trying to find it again."

A backhoe's bite struck a blow in 2011. It clawed into the 111-year-old Peter Bruchmann house and leveled it. The controversial demolition tore through history and left a pile of debris.

"Horrible waste of a house," one bystander said.

"Somebody could have lived there," added another.

After a heated and bitter battle, owner John Wisor built a new home on the property. In some ways, it helped to motivate the call for a master plan.

"If we don't come up with some kind of plan, (the village) is liable to deteriorate further than it has in the last few years," said longtime store owner Pat Hickman.

For the Village of East Davenport, it's all about image and identity. The day-long workshop is trying to recapture the past while planning for the future.

"Take all the comments that come from a lot of different perspectives and try to mold them into a vision for the village that the community can get behind," said Matt Flynn, senior manager for Davenport's planning division.

Davenport will release the next round of results in November. The city plans to unveil final plans next February.

The blend of shops, bars and restaurants can be a gateway to Davenport. But the area is reaching out to make the most of its setting.

"In the past few years, it's kind of gone to sleep," Winborn concluded. "We're trying to wake up and start again."

It's a close look at a landmark neighborhood that's ready for revival.