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Renaissance Rock Island keeps cash flowing in town
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Photo: Paul Colletti
Brian Hollenback is president of Renaissance Rock Island, which consists of Rock Island Economic Growth Corporation, The Downtown Arts and Entertainment District and the Development Association of Rock Island.
ROCK ISLAND -- Renaissance Rock Island is a facilitator of dreams.

It is the umbrella organization for Rock Island Economic Growth Corporation, The Downtown Arts and Entertainment District and the Development Association of Rock Island.

Together, these groups have generated more than $100 million into the local economy over the years and have helped many realize their dreams.

"It goes beyond just what we can touch. It goes beyond the financial support," Renaissance Rock Island President Brian Hollenback said. "We literally rebuild a community in all aspects and all phases.

"I don't believe there is a portion of the city that doesn't have a direct benefit, whether it is commercial, industrial, retail, downtown, neighborhoods, rental, homeownership, historic preservation, as well as the education piece. We are a one-stop-shop for being a community builder."

GROWTH, established in 1983, has assisted more than 500 people in realizing their dream of home ownership in Rock Island and has helped even more keep or improve their homes.

GROWTH's homebuyer and homeowner assistance programs include the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, Live & Work Rock Island, the Home Purchase and Renovation Program, Single Family Owner Occupied Rehab Program, foreclosure prevention and more.

These programs have provided millions in down payment, closing cost and renovation assistance to eligible applicants.

"It really did make a difference. What they did for me, I could not have done," said Eva Royal, of Rock Island. She was assisted through the SFOOR program, which rehabbed her 200-year-old home on 7th Avenue with new siding, new windows, new kitchen countertops and new electrical.

"I would not have been able to do it. I really appreciate (GROWTH)," said Ms. Royal, a widower who has lived in her home more than 30 years.

"It really did help me out," she added. "I would've had to move out because we needed a lot of work. It is a wonderful program for the people of Rock Island."

Kendra Berger, of Rock Island, was assisted with the purchase and rehab of her home.

"I realized it was economically smarter to purchase a home, but being a single person, it was harder to afford that," she said. "(GROWTH) really helped make it possible to not only have a job that I love but also have a home that I love in the city I really love. (GROWTH) 100 percent made it possible for me to be a homeowner."

A major part of DARI's mission, and that of its more than 60 members, is to focus on business development in Rock Island, especially downtown. DARI was founded in 1986 and has assisted dozens of business owners realize their dream.

Joan Fiame, owner of Realm Wellness Spa, 150 16 1/2 St., is one such business owner. She moved to Rock Island from Chicago and opened her business with DARI's help in March 2010.

"Being from Chicago and really wanting to transition to an urban setting, I just found I was instantly attracted, like sight-unseen, to this area," she said.

Ms. Fiame called Renaissance Rock Island a "hidden treasure." She also purchased a loft from GROWTH in the McKesson building downtown.

"They welcomed us with open arms and did whatever it took to get us, not only in our living space, but to get our business up and running," she said. "I was delighted. I didn't know anyone here, so I felt instantly connected to (Renaissance Rock Island) and the community and fell in love with all of them. Now they're stuck with me.

"They do whatever it takes to support businesses and also residents in the area, and so does the city. I'm always raving about what we have here."

The mission of The District, created in 1992, is to attract people to downtown. Thousands of people visit The District each year for a variety of festivals, events and attractions offered nowhere else in the Quad-Cities.

For more information about or to apply for any of Renaissance Rock Island's programs, call (309) 788-6311 or visit www.LiveRI.com.

Who: Renaissance Rock Island
Quote: "We literally rebuild a community in all aspects and all phases." -- Renaissance Rock Island President Brian Hollenback

Local events heading

  Today is Saturday, Sept. 20, the 263rd day of 2014. There are 102 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: Recruits can get $500 by enlisting now. Lt Jobe has a recruiting office on Illinois Street.
1889 -- 125 years ago: Superintendent Schnitger formally inaugurated the Rock Island and Davenport Railway Line of the Holmes system by putting on four cars to start.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Wires of the defunct Union Electric Co. are being removed by city electricians.
1939 -- 75 years ago: The Bishop Hill softball team won the championship in WHB"S Mississippi Valley tournament at Douglas Park.
1964 -- 50 years ago: A boom in apartment construction has hit Rock Island, with approximately 300 units either in or near the construction stage or due for an early rezoning decision.
1989 -- 25 years ago: Members of the Bi-State Metropolitan Planning Commission are hoping to revive their push for a new $70 million four-lane bridge spanning the Mississippi River.

(More History)