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Gradual renaissance is downtown's salvation

Quad-City Times

January 16, 2008

The Salvation Army building makeover under way this month ought to grab people’s attention. The building on Davenport’s River Drive has changed with downtown over the past 90 years. The five story building was build in 1919 by a German immigrant to house a Danish immigrant’s press-making business. For more than 30 years, the building served as a factory at a time when River Drive was flush with factories and industry operated by first and second generation immigrants.

IN 1954, the Salvation Army took it over. For half a century the building was the center of an effective ministry for the homeless in Davenport. Over those years, parts of downtown Davenport transformed similarly to accommodate those less fortunate. Retail stores and offices gave way to small apartments, clinics and pawn shops.

The Salvation Army building endured, even a bus station because a “Ground Transportation Center”; and a new art museum went up where a pawn shop used to be.

This month, construction begins to transform the Salvation Army building into residential lofts, a project that seemed unthinkable even as downtown underwent it’s touted River Renaissance.

Truth is, the kind of transformation in store for the Salvation Army building has been underway in some less noticeable locations. The Roederer Transfer, Crescent Macaroni and Waterloo Mills buildings hid in an overlooked warehouse district at Iowa and 5th streets for decades. Now they hold 126 condos and apartments.

The forgotten Mississippi Hotel is now the 56-unit Mississippi Lofts.

Q-C wide, more than 500 apartments, lofts or condominiums have been built in old buildings that reached the end of their warehouse or industrial life.

This transformation – call it a gradual renaissance – also changes expectations of what’s possible.

We salute Salvation Army leaders who saw the possibilities for this renaissance as they moved much of their operations north on Brady Street, leaving behind where their ministry transformed so many lives.

The Salvation Army mission continues. Dozens of ringing bells remind us this season to give generously to this time-honored mission. Now it’s old River Drive home will be transformed. We expect this transformation can have the same effect on downtown that the Salvation Army had on the lives of so many individuals: A new outlook and a fresh start anchored in a firm foundation.

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