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Resort Park Planned for Red Rock
The Development May Include the Indoor Rain Forest That Has Been Planned for Coralville

Perry Beeman and Donnelle Eller

Des Moines Register

February 2, 2006

The Developers

[Note: This material is copyright by the Des Moines Register, 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 Des Moines Register.]

The shores of Lake Red Rock near Pella - one of Iowa's top tourist draws - will sprout a multimillion-dollar resort and condominium development even if backers don't lure a proposed indoor rain forest to the site, developers said.

The project, called the Point at Red Rock, will include rental houses, condominiums, hotel rooms, a marina, convention space and a water park. In addition, the development could include the Environmental Project's indoor rain forest, aquarium and education center that has been planned for Coralville, said Kevin Conway, one of the Red Rock developers.

The rain forest project has had trouble locking up a site and financing after years of talks with Coralville, Des Moines and Cedar Rapids. But the Red Rock developers - DML Land Management - say the attraction would make the Red Rock resort a huge draw, with a price tag of up to $300 million over five to nine years.

Construction could start next year, if the plan locks up financing and clears a federal environmental review related to its proposed marina.

Pella leaders cherished the thought.

"It's a phenomenal proposal," said Karen Eischen, who leads the Pella area economic-development group. "It would provide a great economic boost to the city."

Pella attracts about 350,000 tourists annually to its tulip festival and other attractions. Eischen said she would expect the rain forest's projected 1 million-plus visitors would bring new companies to Pella and increase business for existing ones.

Possibly more important, the project would help draw new workers to the area, Eischen said. Pella is home to companies such as Pella Corp. and Vermeer Manufacturing Co.

The site is next to the Bos Landen golf course and residential community in Pella. The hotel could have more than 300 rooms if the rain forest project is part of the development, fewer if it isn't, Conway said. Mahoney State Park in Nebraska, another resort park, has 40 rooms in its lodge. Honey Creek Resort State Park, planned for Rathbun Lake near Centerville, is planning 108 rooms.

Conway and his partners, Mark Bockenstedt, Lee Schreurs and Don Davis, have purchase rights to about 260 acres on Lake Red Rock just outside Pella. The site has 2,600 feet of waterfront access, a rarity on any reservoir operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This site is different because the land to be developed is high enough to be out of the flood plain, Conway said.

David Oman, who heads the rain forest staff, said several communities have expressed interest in the final round of negotiations for the rain forest site, to be chosen by the end of March. They are Coralville, Des Moines, Dubuque, Pella, Tiffin and Riverside.

"This is a very robust number of communities interested in our project," Oman said. "We are elated."

Conway is working with financing companies that specialize in waterfront developments, but hasn't locked up the money.

The development comes as the state continues work on the resort park on Rathbun Lake. That project should not be hurt by the development at Pella, said Jeff Vonk, director of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

The Developers

Kevin Conway owns Westbrook Construction Co. in Urbandale.

Mark Bockenstedt and Don Davis have been residential and commercial development partners since 1981 on projects around the Des Moines area.

Bockenstedt, Davis and Lee Schreurs, who owns Schreurs Construction, started DML Land Management in 2004. The group is developing Cherry Glen Estates near Saylorville Lake and owns land in Ankeny and Polk City for development.

Bockenstedt and Davis also started Lakeside Performance Marina, a boat dealership in Polk City, last year. Bockenstedt also purchased Red Rock Lake Marina last year.