Bettendorf embraces change to revitalize downtown

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Downtown Bettendorf is a work in progress these days.

Plans for a new Interstate 74 bridge, land-based casino and more projects are filling the area with a lot of improvements and challenges.

"Here's where we are now," said Rev. Rich Pokora, vice president of the Bettendorf Business Network.

Downtown Bettendorf is on the move, like it or not.

"40 businesses are gone," he said. "Other businesses are giving up."

A vacant gas station symbolizes the eyesores. Business leaders face an uphill battle.

"They're wondering if they can survive," Pokora continued.

State Street Interiors is a four-decade Bettendorf business. Owner Marie Johnson knows about the possibilities.

"We're trying to develop a center and kind of spread out from there," she said.

Reason enough to consider applying for Iowa's Main Street program to help develop this downtown.

A few miles away, it's already helping to boost Davenport's Hilltop Campus Village.

"You just need to have sort of an unbridled enthusiasm for the community if you really want to achieve anything," Pokora said.

The Waterfront Convention Center is finding new ways to connect. Bettendorf also owns nearby property. It could become a setting for outdoor concerts and community events.

"We need to get activity down here," said Johnson.

Bettendorf residents and visitors can offer input on Monday, July 21. That's when the city will host an open house from 5-7 p.m., at the Waterfront Convention Center. It will help to develop the city's long-range plans.

Bettendorf's landscape will change over a decade with a new Interstate 74 bridge.

"The bridge will come over to the east of where it is now," said Rich Horst.

That's creating a blank slate for opportunity. It's redevelopment for the entire community.

For Marie Johnson, it's really a change to embrace change.

"I feel excited about it," she concluded. "I think it's a sign of progress."