The City of Moline and the Moline Preservation Society got word yesterday afternoon that Governor Pat Quinn is asking the Illinois DOT to cover the rest of the costs to move the Historic DRI and NW Depot in Moline! While the Society had raised $73,000, the difference we still needed was $82,000. The sale of the Depot to IDOT (for demolition) was on the agenda for a vote at City Council last night and the Society was asking for a fundraising extension. The news came just in time! It is going to be a very wonderful holiday knowing this gorgeous landmark is saved.
Currently, Moline, Illinois is at a crossroads. The City has an opportunity to save its last remaining train station or oppositely, it will be demolished.
A community largely indebted to the railroad for its existence and home to companies like John Deere that relied upon train transportation for their success, should this Midwest rail town erase all that is left of its rail related structures in the name of growth?
So why this paradox?
The Moline Depot sits in what has become an unfortunate location – along the banks of the Mississippi River just east of the Interstate 74 Bridge that connects Illinois with Iowa. The extant bridge is deteriorating and is cause for a new, replacement bridge. Unfortunately, like most interstate projects, the plans for a new bridge include no thought to buildings in its path.
Built in 1900, the Davenport, Rock Island, and Northwestern (DRI-Line)Depot was beautifully designed by noted local architect Olaf Z. Cervin and features significant and solid craftsmanship displayed in its clay tile roof, distinctive clock, and wide eaves often found in turn of the century train stations. Because of its significance, the building was deemed a Local Historic Landmark in 1994, the same year the City took possession of the building. Likewise, it also has been determined eligible for individual listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
Relocation and Redevelopment Options on the Track
After working with the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency to determine that the building could be moved, the Department of Transportation pledged $1,000,000 in federal funds to move the building as part of Section4(f) mitigation efforts. Let me repeat that. One. Million. Dollars. Not to mention, a benefactor has come forward that would accept the Depot, if moved, and subsequently rehabilitate it. A preservationist’s dream!
Recently, Western Illinois University (WIU) chose Moline as the home of their new Quad Cities campus. Better still, they chose the city’s riverfront – just east of the Depot’s current site. So when the University agreed to incorporate the building into their campus plan as a Welcome Center for the public to enjoy, it seemed too good to be true. Not to mention the fact that the Depot would sit along railroad tracks and the Mississippi River, an important aspect for us contextually minded preservationists.
The only stipulation made by the University was that some preliminary stabilization measures be made such as minor window repair (the building’s historic wood windows are largely in good condition) and that a small hole in the roof be patched. Subsequently, WIU would take possession of the building once it was on their land. Unfortunately, these were not costs that could be covered by the DOT’s million, which must be used solely on moving expenses.
Understanding that the City would receive another $140,000 from the DOT for the land where the Depot sits, the Moline Historic Preservation Commission gathered bids for the extra work needed to make the move a reality and presented a budget of $155,000 (including $20,000 contingency) to the City Council. With a difference of only $15,000, it seemed like a no brainer that the City would be willing to cover these extra costs. After all, the Depot is one of twelve Local Historic Landmarks in the whole city, as determined by City Council themselves. Further, it is not strange to see Council approve funds for incentivizing development for projects in need of financial support, particularly those that would not occur “but for” this assistance.
Jumping the Tracks
Noting the article’s title, you might guess where this is going.
No, City Council decided the Depot was not worthy of any city assistance. Furthermore, Council decided the $140,000 the City plans to receive for the land must return to the tourism account, originally used to purchase the building. The tourism account? Oh, the irony! With all the talk of fiscal responsibility looming and Illinois’ political history, it was easy for our local politicians to use this as the backdrop for this denial. Of course, at this point all the numerous studies completed by Donovan Rypkema and other economists came to my mind to express the job generation and local economy boost projects like this can provide but so few people seem to understand.
Why the Save the Moline Depot Campaign needs to Gather some Steam
Fortunately, there is a twist to this story. After Council’s determination in late October, the Moline Preservation Society, a local non-profit, stepped forward to raise the $155,000 needed to move the building. Knowing that the bridge would not be built for at least two years, the Society decided to take on the challenge. In response to this request, City Council set a deadline of December 18, 2012, providing the Society only nine weeks to raise the $155,000 still needed to move the Depot. Nine weeks!
While some would say that this was setting the Society up for failure, the group has worked tirelessly, resulting in over $58,000 in pledges in just a few weeks time. The public outcry has been enormous. The Society immediately formed a Save the Depot committee made up of members and community volunteers. This group has created has developed official campaign materials detailing the project, printed yard signs, held press conferences, appeared on television and radio, written letters to the editor,created a website at SaveTheMolineDepot.com, and made numerous requests to individuals and organizations face-to-face and by telephone. All campaigning has been funded by the Society or outside gifts, and not by donations to save the depot.
While the group will be seeking an extension of the December 18, 2012 deadline, it is impossible to know if Council will consent. Meanwhile, the group is continuing to do everything in their power to raise the additional $97,000 still needed to make the project a reality.
Personal Call to Action
Could this dream of a partnership fall to pieces for lacking 6% of the project’s total funds needed? Moline deserves better and so does the Quad Cities’ first public university. I strongly believe in this project, in the Depot’s craftsmanship and importance, and the people working to ensure the Depot will be enjoyed for another hundred years.
What can I do? This!
You are invited to join us in our efforts by making a pledge online at SaveTheMolineDepot.com, by mailing a pledge to the Moline Preservation Society at P.O. Box 9141, Moline, Illinois 61265, or by calling (309) 762-3058. No pledge is too small and all gifts are tax deductible upon receipt. To follow our group and our progress, find the Moline Preservation Society on Facebook.