Return to Nicholas Johnson's Main Web Site

Return to Nicholas Johnson's Coralville Rain Forest Web Site

Council Wants Rain Forest Input
City Prefers Original Architect for Project

Adam Pracht

Iowa City Press-Citizen

August 24, 2005

[Note: This material is copyright by the Press-Citizen, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of the Iowa City Press-Citizen.]

CORALVILLE -- The leaders of a planned $180 million enclosed rain forest project appear to be leaning toward a new architect, according to Mayor Jim Fausett.

But a letter Fausett sent to the board of directors of The Environmental Project on Tuesday afternoon suggests that the preferences of city leaders and project management don't match.

The project would help to anchor a development called the Iowa River Landing southeast of Interstate 80 and First Avenue with a 4.5-acre enclosed rain forest, a one million gallon aquarium and a learning center.

Project leaders ended their contract with Chermayeff, Sollogub and Poole of Boston in June after Peter Sollogub left the company to return to his previous firm, Cambridge Seven Associates in Cambridge, Mass.

Fausett said he, city staff and city councilors have expressed a preference to follow Sollogub, who also is working on a transportation center in the Iowa River Landing. In the letter, Fausett said Sollogub would be able to create a unified look and that his firm has more experience with work similar to The Environmental Project.

However, Fausett's letter indicates that project leaders are leaning toward Grimshaw Architects of London. Fausett's letter was e-mailed to the Press-Citizen after 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, and project vice president Nancy Quellhorst deferred comment until today.

In the letter, Fausett said the city was committed to provide land, infrastructure and parking to the project.

"This commitment is, however, dependent on having a level of control in the project structure, including selection of the architectural firm or firms that will provide the best opportunity for success of the entire area," Fausett said in the letter.

Before the City Council meeting Tuesday night, Fausett said that was not a threat, but that the choice of architect could become an issue the city councilors would consider. City councilors reviewed a draft land transfer agreement at their Aug. 9 work session that would require that the land revert to city hands if deadlines and other requirements were not met.

"As to whether the architect is negotiable, I think that would be up to the council, if it came down to that," Fausett said.

Though it was not on the City Council agenda Tuesday night, the project still came up during the mayor's comment time, as he gave assurances that the project would move forward.

"We are not altogether agreeable on everything, but I think it's important that the citizens know that the councilors are very much trying to do what they feel is best for the community," he said.

During their comment time, two councilors who have said they will no longer support the project -- Tom Gill and Jean Schnake -- thanked people who responded favorably to their stance.

"I agree with every concept behind the project, but it's not getting done the way the concept was originally intended," Schnake said.

Also during the City Council meeting:

City councilors voted 5-0 on first reading to ban the use of engine brakes within the city limits. The brakes primarily are used on semitrailers and can create a loud staccato noise. The councilors also voted 5-0 to have the next two readings necessary for passage to occur at the Sept. 13 meeting to expedite the ban.

Councilors got their first look at a private recreation center proposed for land southwest of Oakdale Boulevard and 12th Avenue during a work session. Gregory Cilek, president of New York-based Iowa Sports Management presented plans for a building that would include eight indoor and four outdoor tennis courts, two indoor basketball courts, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a health club and spa, a café and a retail sports shop.

Here is the Press-Citizen's list of rain forest stories from 2005 (as of August 24, 2005). These are all available with links from within the text at Nicholas Johnson's Coralville Rain Forest Web Site. But the links below go to the stories as they appear on the Press-Citizen's Web site:
Council wants rain forest input - August 24, 2005

Rain forest losing its magic - August 23, 2005

Jaques Cousteau's grandson on rain forest board - August 11, 2005

Strings tied to rain forest land - August 10, 2005

Rain forest, group set deadlines - July 7, 2005

Rain forest deadline: May 1, 2009 - July 6, 2005

Rain forest project set to hire overseer - June 23, 2005

Coralville land values expected to skyrocket - June 11, 2005

River Landing issues addressed - May 11, 2005

Rain forest education plan outlined - April 21, 2005

Councilors in the dark on rain forest progress - March 12, 2005