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Moline leaders have a history of daring to dream big dreams, and doing what they must to make them happen.

Take, for example, the multi-phase development of Moline’s Ben Butterworth Parkway along what was once an overgrown, debris-strewn industrial graveyard. Leaders seized the challenge and the chance to reclaim the riverfront to create a Quad-Cities gem.

City leaders later took riverfront reclamation a giant step further when they committed to building a civic center and agreed to site it on the riverfront. There were plenty of naysayers. Indeed, even with the generous donation of former industrial land by Deere & Co., a multi-use arena might never have risen at all if Moline leaders had not committed completely to the vision and the more difficult path. As a result, what is now known as the TaxSlayer Center has played host to the world’s biggest acts, and sparked an ongoing transformation of Moline’s riverfront and downtown.

Deere & Co. and Moline would again team up, with the support of other bistate leaders, to build a Western Illinois University-Quad Cities Moline riverfront campus that is soon scheduled for another expansion and, we hope, a much-needed influx of new students.

Recently, city leaders took another calculated gamble by going all-in on passenger rail service by building The Q despite repeated delays in the release of government funding to get the trains running. Why? Because Moline’s own history shows that there are no big rewards without big dreams.

Today, city leaders find themselves on the threshold of another transformative opportunity. They have the chance to create a bold vision and an aggressive plan for some 25 acres of prime downtown real estate at the foot of the new Interstate 74 Bridge.

It’s a rare blank slate that cries out to be writ large. Or as former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy put it to Moline officials at a recent event set up by Renew Moline and the city, Moline leaders face a choice: doing what they think they can afford, or “going for the spectacular.”

In advocating for the latter, Murphy said that Chicago faced a similar choice when it opted to build the now iconic Millennial Park instead of a parking garage planned for the site.

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Moline faces a similar moment where refusing to take the easy path is essential if we are to maximize the potential that the new Interstate 74 Bridge at Moline is unlocking. According to Mayor Stephanie Acri, the visit by Murphy and a pair of officials with the Urban Development and Urban Land Trust was designed to kick-start the process for discovering that path.  

“We want different perspectives here at the front end as we are developing our vision," Acri said. “We don’t want to miss an opportunity to do something great.”

We don’t either because moments like this do not come along every day. Our region cannot afford to waste any of them as we continue to work to create a cool, creative and prosperous community where people are eager to live.

We also are pleased to note that the city is committed to seeking other perspectives. There is no such thing as too many.

In fact, if plans aren’t already in the works they should be soon for Moline officials to conduct an ongoing, wide-open, public process where people are encouraged to share their dreams and ideas before leaders craft a vision for the land and an intentional plan for executing it.

Who knows where the next great ideas will come from?

We urge Moline officials to find out by providing frequent, accessible forums at every step in the process where residents can offer their input. As for readers, we urge you to put your imaginations to work and then seize every opportunity to share your ideas big and small whenever you can. That includes sharing them with other readers in a 250 word or less letter to the editor.

This opportunity is too big and too important to waste. Let's seize it!

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