Theater, shopping center, surf pool proposed in Davenport

Davenport city leaders are applying for state funds to help build a multimillion-dollar entertainment district off Interstate 80.

“It’s a win-win, a big deal, could be fantastic. It could be a transformative aspect for our city,” said Mayor Bill Gluba. “It’s a long-shot, we have no illusions about that. But if you don’t ask, you don’t receive, and we’re gonna ask.”

At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, aldermen voted unanimously to submit a preliminary application to the state in hopes of creating an Iowa Reinvestment District they’re calling “River 80.”

The project involves both developer Dan Kehl and developer Rodney Blackwell, former competitors bidding to move Rhythm City Casino to land. Under the new plan, Kehl would build the casino near the intersection of Interstate 80 and Interstate 74, while Blackwell would help develop the nearby entertainment complex.

The 25-acre “River 80″ district would include a 200-room hotel, shopping, restaurants, an indoor/outdoor surf pool with continuous waves, a multipurpose festival plaza, and a 1,500-seat performance theater with sports simulators during the day.

City leaders are requesting $17.5 million from the state to develop the $71.5 million district. By establishing the district, the state will rebate a portion of its sales and hotel/motel tax for reinvestment.

Ultimately, city leaders envision the district as just a small part of the area’s development. Upon full build-out, they say the casino, entertainment district and surrounding area will include 250 acres of residential and commercial development, creating more than 1,000 jobs and a $250 million tax base.

Wednesday, Mayor Gluba said he foresees the project’s implementation regardless of the state application’s success.

“Ultimately, that area’s going to develop. There’s going to be a casino out there, there’s going to be hotels, all these other amenities. This will just move it along,” said Gluba.

The project also includes a “Memorandum of Understanding,” through which developers Kehl and Blackwell have pledged $9.5 million in private funds to support Davenport’s downtown development.

Bettendorf leaders have also applied for a portion of Iowas $100 million in reinvestment funds to build a business park, hotel, retail center, and indoor sports complex near I-80 and Middle Road.

Leaders expect to hear whether their application was successful by June 30, 2014.

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