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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Near the Historic Site of Melo Cream and WQUA:
To Become Loft Apartments

Moline building to become loft apartments

buy this photo Developer Mark Roemer plans to create loft apartments and retail space in the former Phillips mini mall in downtown Moline. (Jennifer DeWitt/QUAD-CITY TIMES)
A Quad-City developer has plans to bring a downtown Moline building back to life as loft housing.
Mark Roemer has a contract to purchase the former Phillips Mini Mall, located at 1320-1322 5th Ave. Through his Phillips Lofts LLC, he plans to convert the four-story building into 18 two-bedroom, market-rate apartments with 2,400 square feet of commercial space available on the ground floor.

“This is just a good project that I think will help Moline,” he said. “There is a lot of exciting stuff going on in Moline and I just want to be part of it.”

The Phillips Lofts project will restore the one-time Phillips furniture store and former furniture warehouse to an active use, said Ray Forsythe, the city’s planning and development director. “The good thing about Mark is he is already in downtown Moline and he knows the market.”

This will be Roemer’s fifth apartment project since 2002 in downtown Moline, where he owns about 44 apartment units with adjoining commercial space.

Forsythe said the Phillips building has sparked many inquiries from other developers over the years, but previously the owner, Roger Colmark, was not willing to sell. Colmark is the Sterling, Ill., developer who began restoring the historic John Deere House in Moline about 15 years ago, but was forced to abandon the project due to a foreclosure.

“Roger had the (Phillips) building full of John Deere memorabilia that he was going to use to fill the John Deere house,’’ Forsythe said. “Once he lost the John Deere house, he was willing to let go of that property and Mark seized the opportunity.”

Roemer said he hopes to close on the purchase in August and begin what will be a renovation of about nine months. He estimates he could begin leasing the lofts next April or May. He would not disclose a purchase price.

He said he knows demand is there from his other downtown properties. “We always have a steady stream of inquiries and a lot of times we do have a waiting list,” he said, adding he sees a lot of potential on the west end of downtown.

Roemer also is acquiring the 50-space parking lot directly to the west at 1312 5th Ave. to provide secured parking for the Phillips Lofts tenants as well as for some of his other downtown tenants. Any available spaces will be rented to the businesses that now use the lot, he said.
“Anytime you have cool loft-style living space that will attract younger people,” Roemer said, comparing the latest project to his Boston Lofts at 1441 5th Ave. He added that many of tenants are young professionals and downtown employees.

This is Roemer’s first project to involve tax increment financing, or TIF, and historic tax credits. According to Forsythe, the Moline City Council approved a TIF rebate of up to $240,000 at its meeting on Tuesday. He said Roemer will receive the rebate over five years from the additional tax increment the improved property generates.

The project also is in an Enterprise Zone, which allows for a sales tax exemption on all construction materials, he added.

The Phillips Lofts renovation comes as several other development projects are in the works in downtown Moline. They include the 69-unit Enterprise Work-Live Lofts at River Drive and 19th Street and development of a new Amtrak station, Forsythe said.