Retail Growth: Why Illinois has struggled

Retail development on the Illinois side of the Quad Cities appears to be trying, but struggling, to catch up with Iowa.

Many local shoppers call 53rd and Elmore Avenue, in Davenport, the retail hub of the Quad Cities.  Stores like DSW, A Banana Republic Outlet, and a Gap Outlet are on their way to Elmore Avenue just north of the Lowes store.

Heart of America President and CEO Mike Whalen says a good location and a strong pitch for it convinced him to build there.

“Somebody made a strong pitch on the ground, and so we bought it.  It was not as strategic as many of you would like to think,” Whalen said.

Take our poll – then see more below about why retail development seems to struggle on the Illinois side of the Quad Cities.

Moline Planning and Development Director Ray Forsythe says the Illinois side of the Quad Cities has struggled to bring in more retail growth because Moline and Rock Island are landlocked by the Rock River.  He says there is no room for the boundaries of Moline and Rock Island to expand because they are surrounded by the Mississippi and Rock rivers and by other cities.

Forsythe said property taxes are another reason why the Illinois side has struggled.  The highest property taxes on a home worth $100,000 in Scott County were about $2,100 a year in 2012.  In Rock Island County, they were closer to $2,700.

The Mississippi River creates something of an artificial barrier between the Iowa and Illinois sides of the Quad Cities area, and some shoppers are simply inclined not to cross the river from Iowa into Illinois.

Moline Mayor Scott Raes says his city needs to stop the bleeding first, to keep shoppers on the Illinois side of the river, before they can bring in more people from Iowa.

Crews are currently building a Sam’s Club on John Deere Road.  Although Davenport already has a Sam’s Club, an Illinois-side location could keep Illinois shoppers from traveling past Moline into Iowa.

Raes says it would help if the the city brings in a destination store to Moline, but that would only be the start to a long development process.

“It takes 30 to 40 years to make that happen,” Raes said. “You have all these government relationships that you have to hurdle…but it can be done.”

Forsythe said that the SouthPark Mall renovation plan from Macerich should help out development on the Illinois side.  Macerich would like an entrance to the mall off of John Deere Road.  The state of Illinois would be in charge of making that entrance a reality.

City officials hope to get an answer on the renovation plan, including the John Deere Road entrance to SouthPark, before the end of 2013.

Whalen, the developer, says retailers have pretty strong opinions about whether they’ll locate in our area and what drives their decisions.  See what he had to say about that in the video below.


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