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732 Gaines Street Davenport IA 52802

New life comes to Davenport gateway corridor

By Alma Gaul | Monday, June 23, 2008 |

In 1964, Maurice Woods and his wife, Lois, drove through Davenport from California on their way to the World’s Fair in New York City.

They were enthralled with the Mississippi River and the town’s old homes, and the couple told themselves that when they had the time and resources, they would come back.

In August 2006, they made good on their intentions. The Woodses purchased two homes in the city’s historic Gold Coast neighborhood and are to close soon on a third, becoming — serendipitously — part of a transformation on that portion of heavily traveled Gaines Street.

The street that spills off the Centennial Bridge and into the heart of Davenport has its share of dilapidated homes, especially in the Gold Coast area between 5th and 9th streets. But an abandoned house at 8th Street has been rebuilt by the nonprofit Gateway Redevelopment Group, and five other troubled properties are being fixed or will be soon.

Among them is 604 Gaines — a large blue, Queen Anne-style home that has been sitting empty, forlorn and highly visible for several years — which is being purchased by the Woodses.

“It’ll come back fast,” says Maurice Woods, who has spent a lifetime in construction.

In the 42 years since the couple first visited Davenport, they moved to Cripple Creek, Colo., where they made their living at general contracting and running several small businesses, including a general store, an antique emporium and an outfitters.

Buying and rehabbing homes is a way of life for them, he says. “I did it all my life and my father did it all his life. By the time I was 16, we had rebuilt and moved into 12 different houses in the Los Angeles area.”

The Woodses are selling their properties in Colorado, making Davenport their home. Woods, 76, says he can’t wait to get started on the Gaines Street house, hopefully next month.

“We’re going to put up scaffolding and use about 100 tubes of caulking,” he says. “I have a bad leg, but that doesn’t stop me. I’ve done hard labor all my life. I’m not about to quit now.”

And he can’t say enough good things about Davenport. He ticks off a list of features that amaze him: the “awesome” swing span of the Government Bridge, the locks and dam, the steamboats that tie up here and the Deere and Alcoa industrial complexes.

But most of all, he loves the people he has met. “Jack (Haberman)  has introduced us to the nicest group of people I have ever met in my life,” Woods says. “the nicest people on earth.”

Haberman is a founder of the Gateway Redevelopment Group, which has a goal of saving abandoned buildings in the neighborhood. He and others are glad to have the Woodses, too — glad for new enthusiasm and investment.

“We’re cleaning up the corridor,” Haberman says. “Gaines Street is starting to look up.”

Roy DeWitt, a neighborhood services specialist for the city, lauds the efforts.

“The work they (Gateway Redevelopment Group volunteers) are doing is creating a domino effect of interest in redevelopment in that neighborhood. The interest is spreading, and that is the important thing,” he adds.

“The neighborhood is more stable than it was even a year ago. Crime is under control. There is positive change.”

Alma Gaul can be contacted at (563) 383-2324 or agaul@qctimes.com.

Other properties slated for fix-up

Other properties that are part of the Gaines Street improvement story, include:

- 514 Gaines — This is a circa-1890-1910 house that was built as an upstairs/downstairs duplex. When it came up for sale last year, neighborhood resident Duane Timm purchased it because he was “tired of the problems going on there.” The home is undergoing restoration.

- 705-711 Gaines — This property was built in 1905 as four townhouses designed by the regionally known architectural firm of Clausen & Clausen.

In time, the building was converted to eight apartments, and it is now vacant and boarded-up after problems with garbage and criminal activity that came to a head last fall.

Jack Haberman and his wife, Marion Meginnis, expect to buy the property this summer and return it to four units.

Bill Boom, a neighborhood resident and the city’s 3rd Ward alderman, says the building “has, for quite a while, been a source of consternation for people in the neighborhood,” so he is happy to hear of its impending purchase.

- 730-732 Gaines — This is the Civil War-era Christian Jipp grocery store and attached house that the Gateway group is converting into an architectural salvage shop/museum/meeting area and apartment.

Work has been slow but steady since those efforts began in 1997. The building is stabilized and work should begin soon on the apartment.

- 822 Gaines — This slated-for-demolition home has been completely rebuilt; see the story about it in today’s Salute section.

- 902 Gaines — This circa-1909 building was constructed as a saloon with upstairs apartments, and it has been a bar/private club for most of its history.

The nonprofit Rebuilding Together Quad-Cities organization is helping transform the building into a home for Darius Moore Sr., a disabled Navy veteran, and his family, with the help of a $20,000 Heroes at Home grant from Sears Holding Corp.

Work should be finished in two weeks, says Rod Jennings, the executive director of Rebuilding Together.

Historic lighting

In addition to fixing up properties, there is a move afoot to replace the existing streetlights along Gaines Street with energy-efficient period lighting.

The project is being studied by the Edmund Gaines Group, which was begun years ago as a neighborhood effort to plant flowers along the street’s boulevards but is operating now under the 3rd Ward Action Team headed by Alderman Bill Boom.

Other groups are involved in the effort as well, including DavenportOne and St. Ambrose University, which are looking at supporting the lighting effort from the Centennial Bridge all the way to Locust Street, said PJ Slobojan of the Gaines Group.



Gateway Redevelopment Group, Davenport, Iowa