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Rock Falls brings in hotel as riverfront anchor

Project will pay for completion of public green space

ROCK FALLS – The city has nailed down its riverfront development anchor project.

It was announced at Tuesday’s City Council meeting that the city has entered into a redevelopment agreement for the construction of a $6.1 million Holiday Inn Express & Suites in the RB&W District at the east end of the riverfront.

The city expects the 68-unit hotel to generate an estimated $2.3 million over the next 10 years – $1 million in property taxes that go into the TIF District, $700,000 in hotel/motel taxes, and $600,000 in city utilities revenue.

Rock Falls Mayor Bill Wescott said this is the type of project that was needed to jump-start the riverfront.

“This project is the anchor project for our city’s riverfront, and it will bring other development into the RB&W District,” Wescott said. “Companies follow hotel business, and we’ve heard from some of those people already.”

The hotel project also will speed up the completion of the public green space along the riverfront, Wescott said.

“This allows us to do the green space project with TIF money,” Wescott said. “This is a huge thing – we don’t have to go to the taxpayers to finish this.”

TIF funds from all development projects on the riverfront will be used to pay for the green space. It will include an entertainment venue, restrooms, a splash pad, and the bike path when completed.

The hotel is expected to create 20 permanent jobs, while the construction phase will put about 75 people to work.

The development team is incorporated as Rock Falls Hotel Group LLC. It is made up of five developers from the Madison, Wisconsin, area and one from Dyersville, Iowa. Partners are Al Gibbs Construction of Dyersville, Landgraf Construction, Neil Densmore of Great Lakes Management, Kevin Page and John Kothe, all of Madison.

Sandy Henrekin, former Rock Falls Community Development Corporation executive director, introduced the two developers present at the council meeting.

“We have had some close calls and development disappointments, but this will bring a great deal of revenue, and I think it will be a tremendous catalyst for other projects,” Henrekin said.

Henrekin said a hotel was identified as a strong anchor option in the riverfront development master plans drawn up in 2009 and 2012.

“We sent out requests for proposals last summer, and it moved rapidly,” Henrekin said. “The first proposal was a boutique hotel that wasn’t a good fit, but the second proposal was.”

Developer Mark Landgraf challenged the city to think outside the box. He said many small towns like Rock Falls are just waiting to be discovered.

“We’ve talked about vineyards, a circle of presidents, triathlons – there are tons of opportunities,” Landgraf said. “You are so close to a major metropolitan area. When people want to get out of there, why do they have to go to Galena?”

In addition to the opportunities a river affords, Landgraf said he liked the synergies between Sterling, Rock Falls and Dixon.

Al Gibbs’ construction firm was involved with the Field of Dreams baseball field project in Dyersville 20 years ago. The popular tourist attraction was the setting for the movie by the same name. He has worked on projects with Densmore for 12 years, including many other hotel developments.

“We’ll be very active in the community,” Gibbs said. “Neil has a history of close involvement in his development areas.”

Construction is expected to begin this summer.

Next meeting

The Rock Falls City Council next meets at 6:30 p.m. May 20, at City Hall, 603 W. 10th St. 

The agendas will be posted at and at City Hall. Call 815-622-1100 for more information.

The City Council meeting also can be viewed live on Channel 5.

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