Planned Moline Development Targets Young Entrepreneurs

When officials with Madison, Wis.-based Gorman & Co. Inc. were in Moline this summer for the grand opening of their Old Moline High School Lofts apartment project, city officials invited them to the top of the Kone Inc. tower to discuss a different kind of project.

City officials had seen a Gorman development in Milwaukee in which the company built a new, innovative project that serves as both a home and a work location for young entrepreneurs, and they thought “something like this would be great in Moline,” said Ray Forsythe, the city’s community development director.

From the top of the Kone tower near the Mississippi River and the Interstate 74 bridge, Forsythe and other officials pointed out potential building sites for such a project.

This week, Gorman officials announced plans to build a $10 million “live/work” project on one of the sites they looked at that beautiful sunny day in June — a 1 1/2-acre parcel at River Drive and 19th Street currently owned by Kone.

The project would be a mixed-use development with almost 70 apartments targeted toward young entrepreneurs such as architects or consultants, said Tom Capp, Gorman’s chief operating officer. Of those, about a dozen units would have ground-level storefronts with living space behind and above. And all apartments could take advantage of a shared business center with computers, plotters, printers and fax machines, plus presentation and conference rooms, he said.

There also would be 3,500 square feet of commercial space apart from that.

“It’s really an exciting project,” Forsythe said.

If financing and approvals all fall into place, construction could begin in the summer with the opening in spring 2009, Capp said.

The proposal goes to the city’s plan commission next week to seek a special-use permit for residential use downtown, Forsythe said. A development agreement between Gorman and the city also will need to be drawn up.

And the company will have to secure financing, which Capp expects to be a mix of Illinois Housing Trust funds, state housing tax credits, enterprise zone financing from the city and a conventional mortgage.

“Our goal is to not have to ask the city for any money. Our hope would be to leverage from other sources like the state,” he said.

The working name for the roughly 80,000-square-foot project is the Moline Enterprise Live/Work Lofts. The word “enterprise” was chosen because “we wanted a name that implied what we wanted to do, which was to target the entrepreneur,” he explained.

This kind of live-work housing has been common on the East and West coasts for many years, and it began showing up in the Midwest about 10 years ago, beginning with projects appealing to artists, he said.

The company’s 85-unit Park East Enterprise Lofts project in Milwaukee is fully occupied, with a 130-person waiting list, he said.

Gorman’s previous Moline project saw the conversion of the old high school on 16th Street rehabbed into 60 apartments.

Alma Gaul can be contacted at (563) 383-2324 or agaul@qctimes.com.