Downtown Alliance Ambassador Maurice Terry greeting patrons at Quad City Bald Eagle Days on Saturday, Jan. 6, 2024.

Downtown Alliance, Special Service Area paying off for Rock Island

Just six months after launching operations, the Rock Island Downtown Alliance is making a visible impact through its riverfront commercial district, which will soon see its largest public infrastructure investment in a generation. From day one, the new organization’s primary priority was to create a clean and safe environment to draw people back downtown to live, work, explore, dine and shop.

Jim's Rib Haven sign.

“I’ve heard a lot of compliments about the (Downtown Alliance) Ambassadors out working and cleaning up,” Rock Island Mayor Mike Thoms said during a March 11 City Council Study Session. “People have been impressed.  A few businesses near Jim’s Rib Haven have reached out to me and said they see them (Ambassadors) regularly. There could be a tendency to stay in the core of our downtown and not get out to the whole SSA (Special Service Area), but that’s not the case here.” Longtime restaurant Jim’s Rib Haven is one of the downtown’s many unique small businesses, and sits on the east side of the City’s Downtown Special Service Area (SSA). The SSA was established in 2022 to generate an additional property tax dedicated to funding improvements and enhanced services within the district’s 65-block area, which encompasses 1st to 7th Avenues and 13th to 28th Streets.

The Downtown Alliance, an affiliate entity of the Quad Cities Chamber, was created to manage the City’s SSA, and a 13-person Board of Directors that governs and guides the use of the funds.

Downtown Alliance City Council Presentation 3.11.24

Map showing locations of Downtown Alliance activity logs Sept. 7, 2023, to Feb. 29, 2024.

The Downtown Alliance uses a GPS-integrated mobile software application to track its activities in real-time. This is a visualization of the team’s 2,300-plus logs Sept. 7, 2023-Feb. 29, 2024.

Sporting branded uniforms, Downtown Alliance Ambassadors circulate the SSA Monday through Friday and occasional weekends, performing hospitality and cleaning services under the direction of Operations Manager De’Andre Robinson. From greeting visitors and giving directions to collecting litter and removing graffiti, Ambassadors are the organization’s eyes, ears and boots on the ground.The Downtown Alliance uses a GPS-integrated mobile software application to track its activities in real-time. In its first six months using the system (Sept. 7, 2023-Feb. 29, 2024), the team made more than 2,300 logs, encompassing:


  • 1,483 greetings
  • 1,332 business-customer interactions via Holiday Train Hunt
  • 633 business engagements
  • 49 entrepreneur/developer engagements
  • 23 responses to calls for services
  • 18 storefronts decorated via Holiday Display Challenge
  • 27 public safety logs


Clean and Safe

  • 385 bags of litter collected (16,940 gallons)
  • 167 stickers removed
  • 118 pet waste bags collected
  • 107 graffiti tags removed
  • 55 block faces of weed abatement
  • 43 City trash cans serviced


Despite facing some opposition when the SSA was originally proposed, the tangible progress made by the Downtown Alliance has illustrated the value of the additional investment. “We’ve had meetings with some individuals and businesses that were originally not in favor of it, that now are starting to get engaged,” Mayor Thoms said. “There’s no doubt about it.”

What’s Next

The Downtown Alliance in partnership with the Rock Island Public Works Department is finalizing plans for the City’s $7.3 million Rebuild Downtown streetscaping and placemaking project, the largest investment of its kind in a generation. The team along with its engineering and design consultants Veenstra & Kimm and Streamline Architects will present project bids and proposals during a City Council Study Session on March 25.

Learn more about the Downtown Alliance’s newest programs.