Who wouldn't opt for retail development over a dusty sand and gravel pit critics feared would create flooding issues?|
If Rock Island's proposed 90-acre Jumer's Crossing development on Big Island did nothing more than that, it would be welcome. But if the retail potential that prompted the City Council to agree Monday to spend $1 million for the property is realized, both the city and the Quad-Cities area could hit the jackpot.
Since Jumer's Casino and Hotel proposed moving from downtown Rock Island to its new home just off Illinois 92 and Interstate 280, we've anticipated good development news for that area. With the council's decision to purchase the land, and the potential uses for it hinted at this week, those dreams appear closer to coming true.
Count us among those who believed that the casino's move to southwest Rock Island would lead to retail and housing growth in the area. Certainly, the need for retail shops and restaurants near Jumer's is there, according to a market study done for the city last year. Jeff Eder, Rock Island economic development director, said toward that end he already has begun talking to businesses which would like to set up shop in the new development.
Rock Island Mayor Dennis Pauley is among those with big dreams for the site. He said he sees an outlet mall, a large sporting goods store, restaurants and residential units at Jumer's Crossing. All would be welcome, especially the latter.
Of course, there are a great many details to be worked out before anything can happen at the land still owned by River Stone Group Inc., Moline, some of them involving both the environment and the public safety.
Big Island, after all, is located on a complicated and crucial levy system that provides flood protection both for the island's 200 or so homes and the Village of Milan. Indeed, concerns over flooding were one of the primary reasons that Big Island residents and others have opposed the proposed sand and gravel pit.
Done correctly, ambitious retail development should not pose a similar threat. And early signs indicate city leaders are committed to working closely with all the parties involved to do the development the right, and safe, way. There is certain to be much work ahead to resolve a tricky environmental issue, and it must be settled before the city can begin actively selling the site to specific developers.
The city also will have some work to do, city manager Thomas Thomas said, including creating a tax increment financing district for the area and annexing 17 acres of the new land into the city.
We expect the city to move aggressively in creating incentives to bring good developers on board. But we also trust officials will proceed cautiously to ensure that taxpayers, local governments and schools do not pay too high a price for whatever packages they use to lure developers to Jumer's Crossing.
Meanwhile, as we await more good news, please join us in applauding progressive city leaders committed to doing more than sitting idly by waiting for something to happen. Jumer's Crossing, as well as projects like the Super Wal-Mart and Fareway store already in the works, continue to contribute to Rock Island's well-earned reputation as a city on the move. After years of watching other cities rake in retail dollars, Rock Island appears ready to position itself as a retail powerhouse.
So before they knuckle down to work out those devilish details, we urge all involved to pause for a moment and take a bow.
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