Rock Island riverfront

Viewpoint: Special Service Area is a vehicle to build and celebrate downtown Rock Island

Positive action requires positive vision, and the Rock Island City Council and staff deserve applause for taking that approach to revitalizing downtown and considering the establishment of a Special Service Area (SSA).

At the Quad Cities Chamber, we truly believe in the value of downtowns and place, and we see the SSA as a vehicle to move everyone in the same positive direction toward building and celebrating this place. We’re also thrilled to see our current City partnership result in the approval of over $3M in State of Illinois grant funds for downtown improvements. Imagine the possibility of what we can do with a long-term place management organization.

Throughout the process of exploring what’s next for downtown, it has been inspiring to see a group of people come together to work for the betterment of Rock Island. We are honored to be part of the process as we collectively seek to transform downtown’s future.

To those who have voiced concerns about downtown, we are listening with a keen ear. The proposed SSA is a mechanism to help address these concerns.

It is also important to address some people’s concerns regarding the proposal:

  • Funding streams: The proposed SSA is just one funding stream proposed to support the work of the place management organization – as is the community partner and City of Rock Island donations and additional funding in the form of grants and sponsorships – for the betterment of downtown.
  • Budget: A draft budget was built for this proposal based on the calls for services and activities by downtown stakeholders. The numbers are just that – a draft – and nothing would be finalized until a SSA and place management organization Board of Directors develops its work plan and budget. Every dollar invested in the SSA is returned downtown via programs, services and capital improvements. Similar to the way the City or any non-profit operates, people are needed to execute the proposed programs and services.
  • Five-year term: The proposal calls for an initial five-year duration of the SSA. Results will be measured throughout the five-year term with routine monthly Board meetings and regular communication with stakeholders. There will be ample opportunity to pivot and adjust priorities along the way to meet our long-term goals and measure success.
  • Big picture: It is an exciting time in downtown Rock Island. The City has more money than it had for a generation to invest in capital and operational placemaking improvements. There are major projects in development such as the new Federal Building and YWCA, and many more on the horizon. The timing could not be better to leverage our growing momentum. The SSA is the vehicle to bring all of this into the fold, leverage what is being done and ensure we have the resources to continue maintaining, improving, programming and promoting our downtown assets. We are on a shared mission to help downtown thrive, and when it does, the City of Rock Island will thrive.


In the spirit of inclusiveness, engaged and constructive downtown stakeholders are invited to attend the downtown steering committee meeting at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 15, at the Holiday Inn to continue the conversation from here. Interested parties unable to attend in-person may join the meeting virtually via Zoom.