GROWTH advances an “artist inspired community” with completion of Star Block in downtown Rock Island

Rock Island, IL: Rock Island Economic Growth Corporation (GROWTH) celebrated a ribbon cutting on the rehabilitation of the historic Star Block, 1821-1823 2nd Ave., on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, at 11 a.m. in downtown Rock Island.

The Star Block was designated a Rock Island landmark in 1991. Although appearing to be one single entity, Star Block consists of multiple buildings, all under one ownership structure. To further meet the housing needs of the community, this 140-year old historic, landmarked structure at 1821-1823 2nd Ave. was rehabilitated by GROWTH into eight (8) artist-inspired lofts with first floor commercial space.

About the Project:

The over $2.1 million project includes the creation of eight residential rental units and rehabilitation of approximately 1,200 square feet of commercial space, facing the Great River Plaza in downtown Rock Island. This effort preserved and transformed the Star Block into one and two bedroom live-work rental units ranging in size from 564 to 1,100 square feet. Accessible, affordable units targeting veterans will be created at the rear of first floor:

Star Block’s eight residential units feature one and two bedroom apartments ranging from 564 to 1,100 square feet, that lend themselves well for artisans wishing to live in an area that serves as an apartment and artist studio. Rent ranges from $595 to $1,050 per month, with 25 percent of the total units designated to live-work households.

Star Block’s unit mix is as follows:

1st Floor- rehabilitation of first floor commercial space facing the Great River Plaza and creation of two accessible affordable rental units targeting veterans.

Project Team

GROWTH is serving as the developer and general contractor. Laborers’ Home Development Corp serves as property manager. Studio 483 Architects served as architect. Applegate & Thorne-Thomsen served as attorney.

Funding Sources

City of Rock Island TIF Agreement

$ 350,000.00

Bridge Investment Community Development Corporation

$ 125,000.00

MWABank- Construction Loan

$ 650,000.00

MWABank- 10th Anniversary – Donation

$ 10,000.00

City of Rock Island- Façade

$ 30,000.00

Deferred Developer Fee

$ 62,895.00

Illinois Attorney General National Foreclosure Settlement Funds

$ 625,000.00

Illinois Housing Development Authority- State Affordable Housing Tax Credits

$ 163,000.00

US EPA- Revolving Loan Funds (through City of Rock Island)

$ 100,000.00

MidAmerican Energy Rebates

$ 15,225.00

Rock Island Community Foundation

$ 2,000.00

Total Sources of Funds

$ 2,154,210.00

Now Accepting Applications

Applications are now being taken for those interested in living in Star Block. An application must first be completed in order to determine eligibility. Completed applications will be reviewed individually and can be picked up at the following locations at the offices of Laborers’ Home Development Corporation, 100 19th Street, Suite 108, Rock Island, or online at Office hours are Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. To get on the list to receive information about leasing, please call (309) 788-6311. Star Block Lofts is an equal housing opportunity.

Commitment to Downtown & Veterans

The Star Block project complements downtown Rock Island’s history while addressing the need for growing downtown’s residential base. The project will combine historical integrity with contemporary convenience.

In celebration of its 10th Anniversary in 2013, Modern Woodmen Bank was the first contributor to the Star Block project. The Bank donated $10,000 to GROWTH for predevelopment costs associated with the Star Block redevelopment effort in January 2013. “We are the only bank headquartered in downtown Rock Island and have a strong local economic impact,” said Steve Ollenburg, president and CEO of Modern Woodmen Bank. “To commemorate 10 years, we wanted to further our commitment to the downtown community.”

“The fact that this project will help veterans is particularly important to us,” said W. Kenny Massey, Modern Woodmen Bank chairman of the Board of Directors and Modern Woodmen president and CEO. “These heroes deserve housing that is accessible and affordable.”

Community Alignment: Advancing an Artist-Inspired Community

Situated in the heart of downtown Rock Island, Star Block complements downtown Rock Island’s history while addressing the need for growing downtown’s residential base. Star Block’s eight residential units feature one and two bedroom apartments ranging from 564 to 1,100 square feet, that lend themselves well for artisans wishing to live in an area that serves as an apartment and artist studio, thus advancing the City’s Art Plan, approved by City Council in 2015.

Star Block also advances the City’s Artspace Report, approved by City Council in 2008. The Artspace report’s findings clearly supported a moderately sized “live work” project, with 81 artists interested in relocating to such a development. Star Block advances the City’s Economic Development Strategic Plan, and will allow its residents easy access to many local employers and amenities.

Star Block also represents a comprehensive approach to the new Downtown Strategic Plan that advances the following objectives:

  •   Establish a self-sustaining, exciting mixed-used environment with a critical mass of activity
  •   Improve Downtown’s appearance, unique physical character, and overall “sense of place”
  •   Capitalize on existing assets and nearby activity generators
  •   Achieve a balance between preservation and new development
  •   Improve the overall friendliness, efficiency, and safety of all modes of downtown transportation
  •   Advance the City’s Arts Plans

Partnership with Quad City Arts

In 2016, the Development Association of Rock Island (DARI) celebrates 30 years of business growth and economic development. To establish a self-sustaining, exciting mixed-used environment with a critical mass of activity, DARI, in partnership with Quad City Arts, actively engaged successful models from outside communities to implement an artist-inspired community effort in connection with Star Block’s rehabilitation. With research and visits to Wynwood Miami, Florida and Paducah, Kentucky, public art and interactive creative spaces within downtown will be integrated in future projects, and started with Star Block. The columns along the McKesson Lofts building were painted, the installation of lighting and public art was installed as a pilot project in the McKesson alleyway to mimic the concept of Wynwood, Miami. DARI maintains a close relationship with the Arts Advisory Committee, who is working towards developing a downtown artist market. These proactive plans demonstrate DARI’s commitment to the arts.


Phase Two: Two operating commercial restaurants with upper story residential housing in predevelopment

The remaining buildings that are part of the Star Block, 1825 and 1829 2nd Ave., are owned by Renaissance Rock Island. Redevelopment plans have been realized for the first floor commercial space, with the upper stories remaining under predevelopment. The buildings remain in use and continue to serve the downtown:

  •   1825 2nd Ave., first floor commercial space, houses business Soi 2 Thai Street Food, opened by Ye Kongkaew and Scott Krulik in April 2015. The business offers a wide variety of freshly made menu items from appetizers, fried rice and wok dishes, curry plates, noodle bowls, salads and desserts.
  •   1829 2nd Ave., first floor commercial space, houses business El Patron Mexican Restaurant and Bar. The business relocated from its original location in The District a few buildings over, expanded three times larger, added 10 new jobs, and expanded their menu.
  •   A combined investment of over $350,000 was invested in the first floor commercial businesses in Star Block.


Rock Island Economic Growth Corporation is a 501(c)3 Community Housing Development Organization (CHDO) and is regarded as a national leader in developing innovative housing opportunities by convening and facilitating work among various community partners. GROWTH has over 30 years of experience and has successfully leveraged over $170 million in housing and housing related activities, and is a HUD approved and Freddie Mac certified housing counseling agency. In addition, GROWTH has also impacted more than 1,200 units of single family housing throughout northwestern Illinois through its single family rehabilitation and owner-occupied programs, and and welcomed nearly 700 homebuyers to Rock Island.

GROWTH is also a nationally recognized, award winning non-profit organization, most notably being award the National James Leach Award from National Community Reinvestment Coalition, recognizing the most outstanding rural non-profit organization in the country that best promotes fair and equal access to credit and capital and/or contributes the most in its community toward promoting wealth building in traditionally underserved populations.

The total number of downtown housing units created by GROWTH is now 243, increasing with the recent completion of The Garden District, seven single family homes built just north of Jackson Square on 3rd Avenue, across the street from the Quad City Botanical Center’s Children’s Garden in downtown Rock Island.

Star Block continues the success of GROWTH’s previous downtown developments. The Garden District ($2.1 million), The Locks ($6.2 million) Goldman Family Block ($1 million), Jackson Square ($8.8 million), McKesson Loft Condominiums ($6.5 million), Voss Brothers Lofts ($5.5 million), Murphy Lofts ($635,000), Bowlby Condominiums ($750,000), Sala Flats ($5 million), Clipper Condominiums ($2 million), and Goldman and Renaissance Lofts ($6.3 million). To date, GROWTH has been successful in leveraging nearly $170 million in revitalization efforts throughout the city of Rock Island.

GROWTH works to:

  •   Enhance the overall image and vitality of underserved markets
  •   Improve housing market dynamics, especially in its older neighborhoods
  •   Encourage and promote homeownership
  •   Develop new housing opportunities
  •   To assist households with housing counseling, homeownership preparation and foreclosure intervention

Fair Housing Statement: Rock Island Economic Growth Corporation and its subsidiaries are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. Policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the nation. We encourage and support an affirmative advertising and marketing program in which there are no barriers to obtaining housing because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.

About Renaissance Rock Island

Renaissance Rock Island is the umbrella name for three inter-connected organizations dedicated to the revitalization of Rock Island. Rock Island Economic Growth Corporation (GROWTH) is a 501(c)(3) Community Housing Development Organization (CHDO); Development Association of Rock Island (DARI) focuses on commercial and industrial development; and The Downtown Rock Island Arts & Entertainment District (The District) markets the downtown and produces unique downtown events.