MOLINE — By mid-May, Three Corners Development Inc. expects its student housing to be full and two restaurants to open on the ground floor of The Mills at Riverbend Commons.
Three Corners, of Orland Park, is master developer of a three-phase project on 15.5 acres just west of the Western Illinois University Quad Cities Riverfront Campus.
It completed and opened Phase I this fall, a 240-bed student housing complex at 2900 River Drive.
Christopher Woods, president of Three Corners, said the student housing will be fully occupied by May 1 and be home to students from WIU, Augustana College, St. Ambrose University, Trinity College of Nursing, Palmer Chiropractic College and Black Hawk College.
He said Deere & Co., Alcoa and SpeedConnect also signed master leases, and this summer The Mills will house interns from Deere & Co.
The building has 20,000 square feet of ground floor commercial space with floor-to-ceiling windows that frame an unobstructed view of the Mississippi River. A little less than half the space is expected to become restaurants that will open on, or by, May 15, Mr. Woods said.
A coffee/tea shop that also will serve bakery goods and lighter food fare plans to lease 4,500 square feet, and it will be locally owned and managed, he said.
A pizza cafe also is planned. Mr. Woods said Three Corners is going to coordinate the internal build-out, then partner with a local company that will operate the 4,000-square-foot restaurant.
The coffee shop and pizza cafe will have direct access to an outside courtyard.
Madison Construction, the parent company from which Three Corners was formed, also plans to open an office on the ground floor.
“It is very, very exciting,” Mr. Woods said. “This spring, there will be a lot of activity here. We will have more than 200 residents living on-site and half of the commercial space filled.”
Jeff Miller, a Grampp Realty commercial broker working with Three Corners, said there has been a lot of interest in the commercial space, but many businesses don’t want to be the first to locate in a new development. With the announcement of the two planned restaurants, “The ball is definitely rolling,” he said.
Plans for Phase II of Riverbend Commons are underway but not finalized. Market studies have shown a need for more market-rate apartments. Mr. Woods said Three Corners plans to build 150 apartments to rent to families, young adults, executives and professionals who want to live in new housing on the river.
The building or buildings will be just east of 25th Street and north of University Drive (along the railroad tracks behind the current buildings), leaving the land fronting River Drive available for commercial development, he said.
For that frontage, Mr. Miller said they are chasing several ideas, including a gas station/convenience store and an “organic grocery concept” that would become the anchor project for Phase II. Both businesses would provide amenities to residents there and in the entire community.
Three Corners doesn’t want concrete parking lots to consume the property so it is considering some type of structured parking for the apartments. Mr. Woods said the goal — for the entire project — is to create a neighborhood that caters to the needs of residents, university students and professionals, and the community at-large.
“We are very positive about this development, the opportunities of the entire site and what we are trying to accomplish,” he said.
“We have not even begun to see the level of interest that will be generated for this project,” Mr. Miller said.
Moline’s planning and development director, Ray Forsythe, said The Mills is a great complement to the riverfront and neighborhood, and the city is looking forward to Phase II.
Having more residents living on-site will drive additional commercial development, he said. “It’s going to make retailers want to be there.”
Mr. Forsythe said it’s gratifying to watch as a community vision created more than a decade ago — for a campus and adjacent development — becomes reality.
“It’s exciting to see it happen. It’s cool to cross the I-74 bridge and see all of the lights down there, to see the city growing, modernizing and thriving.”