The official purpose of the Downtown Living Strategy is as follows:
- Analyze the current market of housing in Downtown Davenport
- Survey downtown residents on why they choose to live Downtown
- Identify constraints and opportunities in the housing market
- Propose strategies to increase the attractiveness of Downtown as not only a great place to do business, entertain oneself and enjoy the magnificent Mississippi Riverfront, but to live as well
One of the key discussions during the meeting was about incentives. Currently, most of the residential projects downtown have been taking advantage of lower/middle income tax credits, but these come with many Federal and State strings attached. It was debated whether the city should provide incentives to encourage other income levels, in order to create a more financially diverse downtown population. Cities giving incentives or providing cheap space for grocery or convenience stores was also mentioned, since this could leverage more private residential development. Right now its kind of a chicken/egg conundrum, with residential waiting for more shopping options, and retail waiting for more residents. Another issue was that currently I believe there is a total of 1 condo for sale downtown. Some people would like to live downtown, but want to buy their home instead of rent. Right now, unless they want the Bucktown Loft, those people are out of luck.
This led to another discussion that took up much of the meeting. As you would guess, most, if not all of the people at the meeting were pretty pro-downtown Davenport. Several people there wanted to live downtown, but were unable to find market rate apartments or condos. It was pointed out that the market-rate units at the Crescent Lofts, Mississippi Lofts, and CityView all have virtually no vacancies. I wondered why developers, or banks, seem unwilling to build and finance new market rate residential downtown. I used my usual example of the $150,000+ condos behind HyVee on Eastern. I feel that a project like that (3-4 stories $150-200k condos), redesigned to fit downtown or on the edge of downtown, would be a huge success. So did most of the people at the meeting. The area in between the Crescent Warehouse District and the CityView would be perfect for something like that.
What ended up coming out is that we were all pretty confident in the downtown housing market, but it doesn't seem like the money people (banks and developers) are willing to take a risk and deviate from their safe suburban developments. I feel that once someone gets the nerve to lead the way, things will go rapidly from there. If one developer builds a market rate apartment building downtown, and its full within 6 months, other developers will take note. The same goes for condos. Then retail and restaurants will also take note, and then things could really start to snowball. We all felt like downtown Davenport is right on the edge of that kind of success, but it just needs that last little nudge.