EAST MOLINE — It’s been open for over half a year, and rumors about it are still swirling.
Does it have a coffee shop? Apartments? A doughnut shop?
Seven months after opening, the Rust Belt complex remains the subject of endless local interest. It has hosted mega-hit concerts, become home to multiple new businesses, and served as a venue for corporate events and private weddings.
The big concert hall — capacity 3,886 — is mostly finished. “We’re trying to fine-tune things now,” said Cameo Losasso, operations director, during a recent tour of the facility.
The rest of the sprawling development remains a work in progress. Businesses that already have opened there include a salon, a brewery and an architecture firm. A restaurant, barbershop and coffee roaster are on the way.
“It’s just really cool that there’s something like this on this side of the river,” said Kate Anderson, salon manager at Revival Mane, a new hair salon in the development. “East Moline needs this. Illinois needs this.”
Revival Mane opened in August and will have 10 stylists on staff by the end of October. Next door, a barbershop is scheduled to open within weeks.
“We’ve had an extreme amount of walk-ins,” Anderson said. “The people of East Moline are awesome. They’re really grateful something like this is in the area.”
The development also has had its share of growing pains. The location is so new that it sometimes doesn't appear on online maps, and ride-sharing drivers have had trouble finding it. Even the postal service has been slow to adapt to the new address, workers at some businesses said.
Community awareness of the development also been patchwork. Some locals still refer to the area as "The Rusty Belt.”
“It’s been quite a process, but the whole development is finally coming together,” said Losasso, who’s welcomed a daughter into her life since the Rust Belt was born.
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Midwest Ale Works, a brewery, has been open for two months. For co-owner Steve Sears, the venture has been a joy and a learning experience.
“People appreciate that my co-owner and I are always on-site,” he said. “We actively encourage feedback. We’re not beer snobs. We’re everybody-pleasers.”
MWA is two months away from brewing its own beer on-site. Taps will include an IPA, a Kolsch, a red and a porter. The brewery also will sell specialty and seasonal drinks, which will change over time.
“This is the best thing to happen to East Moline, or any of the Quad-Cities,” Sears said.
Thousands from around the area have already attended events held on the main stage at the Rust Belt, the brainchild of music promoter Sean Moeller. Concerts by Bon Iver and Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats were sold out. The Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce held its annual celebration there in August. More recently, United Way of the Quad Cities held a community campaign kickoff there.
Atlanta Fulscher is the venue’s house muralist. On a tall black wall inside the main concert hall, she’s at work on an interactive piece that will make a perfect backdrop for selfies and photos.
“This place needs more color, so I went a more colorful route with it,” she said, standing before her technicolor mural in progress. More are planned elsewhere in the facility, including some sponsored by regional businesses.
At the other end of the complex are the offices of Streamline Architects, a local firm. The space includes a lofty studio, an in-progress design center, and something more novel: an interactive retail showroom, where customers will sit on furniture designed and built by the firm while sipping on coffee prepared by an on-site roastery. The showroom is in development and won’t open until the end of October at the earliest.
For Andrew Dasso, Streamline’s owner, the immersive space gets to the heart of what the firm is all about.
“We’re storefront architects,” he said. “We like to be on the streets, not up in some office tower.”
Though the Rust Belt isn’t completed yet, its progress already is turning heads.
Losasso has seen the changes firsthand. “It was scary,” she said about the original, raw, broken-down building she first toured three years ago, long before refurbishment and redevelopment had begun.
Seeing that shabby old space for the first time, she had her doubts about the future. The smell was horrible. The floor was dirty. Losasso worried constantly that the ceiling would fall on her head.
The transformation from that to the present development has been awe-inspiring. “It’s very exciting to see it develop,” she said.