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Key pieces of land Moline wants to develop are owned by a local church

A report from the Urban Land Institute suggests Moline build a riverfront park near the old I-74 bridge. But, key parts of that land are owned by Heritage Church.

MOLINE, Ill. — The City of Moline is considering downtown development near the old I-74 bridge. A recent report from the Urban Land Institute (ULI) suggested building a park, complete with basketball courts, a 200-400 foot water spout, riverfront restaurants and even a zipline from the old Kone Tower. 

However, key pieces of that land - including the tower - are owned by Heritage Church. 

The church bought the tower back in 2017, with the intention of turning it into a meeting place and community engagement center. It's also where Heritage's BirdgePointe 485 location is. 

While the city and the church had discussions about the land a few years ago, any action fizzled out. But now, Moline has a renewed interest in either buying or leasing the property, based on a suggestion from the ULI's report. 

"Heritage Church has been a great partner with the city and we know that they want to be involved going forward," said Mayor Sangeetha Rayapati. "Everybody's at the table, as far as I'm aware."

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She added that a positive relationship between Moline and Heritage was a good sign, that development on the church's land could someday become a reality. 

"Anything can be considered an obstacle, but it's going to take time and partnership and relationships to make sure we really have something in our downtown redevelopment that that is stunning," she said. 

Heritage said they're open to the conversation, and that nothing - not even the zipline - is off the table at this point. 

"Our commitment, our desire is to see people connect and thrive, which is what revitalization is," said Jeremiah Gómez, Discipleship Pastor at Heritage. "It's just seeing people connect in relationship and in purpose and really feeling a sense of home and community. So I think that is certainly viable." 

Gómez says when the church bought the property, it knew of eventual plans to develop the nearby, old I-74. 

"We really came into the space with an open handedness of what it would look like to live forward in a partnership with the community around us," he said. "Our heart and intention behind it, as Heritage, is that this be a space of bridging and connection for the cities." 

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When it comes to the plans for a downtown park, Gómez wouldn't say exactly if that aligned with the mission of the church. He did, however, mention the suggestions were interesting, exciting ideas, and he looked forward to seeing how they could come to fruition. 

"We want to be a part of the story being written in this area," he said. "Our posture really is how do we pursue the best together. You'll hear our people say we want to be people of radical generosity - to pursue more for people than from them. So I think, in any of those conversations, the desire is a heart of true collaboration and partnership." 

For now, Moline is still months away from making any definite decisions on the proposed park. The suggestion to build from ULI is just a suggestion. However, any plans to move forward have to begin with conversations involving Heritage. 

At the moment, the church's senior pastor is on sabbatical, so it's unclear how soon those talks will begin. 

"We really want the best ideas to emerge," said Gómez. "We're thrilled, we love these cities. The best days are ahead." 

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