Muscatine Applies for Share of State Economic Development Funds - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Muscatine Applies for Share of State Economic Development Funds

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The competition is heating up for 100-million dollars in state funds. Muscatine officially throws its hat into the ring, as council members vote Thursday to apply for a share of monies from the Iowa Reinvestment District.

The three-part plan has been in the works for two years. Local developers are planning to change the face of downtown Muscatine by tearing down one building and putting up two more, all connected by skybridges. They'll fill an empty lot and a vacant building, building on the last available lot right across the street from the Mississippi River.

"This is really the last piece of the puzzle that is going to put our downtown on the map, so to speak," developer Ann Meeker says. She and husband Tom Meeker's Riverview Suites Development plan calls for a six-story, 100-room hotel, complete with a pool, spa and rooftop garden to help bring in visitors.

"It'll help all the small businesses and you know how they struggle," Meeker says. "We have 13 locally owned restaurants in our downtown."  "The more people that come, the more business they'll get, and they'll be more solid." She says already solid businesses, like HNI, will benefit as well, according to a recent consultant's study. "He discovered there is around a million dollars a year that leaves this community because we don't have the quality of hotel that our corporations want."

Visitors staying at that hotel will be able to park in a new ramp and gather at a new convention/ events center. It's a former furniture store, right now housing an exhibit by a Chinese photographer. Mayor DeWayne Hopkins says, "You know, Muscatine has, over the past two years, been part of a stellar relationship with the People's Republic of China."

Community leaders hope that will grow, and tell us they are hoping it plays a part in the way the state scores this project. The most points will be awarded for uniqueness and economic impact. And they say this will have both, on a local and global scale. Amy Bakke is the Creative Director at the Stanley Foundation and a member of the Mayor's Muscatine China Initiative Committee. She says, "So many of the Chinese that come here, we don't have a place to entertain them. We don't have a place to hold any functions that are big enough. So it's exciting to think that there would be a place like that."

It would be part of a 41-million dollar project. And phases of it will happen regardless of what the state decides. But 10 million dollars in funds will ensure the Riverview meets the developers' vision. Applications are due by March 15th. Developers say the CEO of Muscatine's chamber is driving this one to Des Moines on the 14th.

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