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Thinking Big, Identifying Theme IRL's First Tasks

Cultural diversity. Education. Technology. Environment.

Brian Morelli

Iowa City Press-Citizen

May 11, 2006

[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.]

Thinking big and completing the list of potential core themes that could focus on a gateway mixed-use district off Interstate 80 in Coralville will be the first task for a 24-person steering committee of the Iowa River Landing Community Planning Process, which got under way Wednesday at North Ridge Pavilion.

The group's long-term goal is to identify a theme and major attractor for the 180-acre former industrial park south of Interstate 80, east of First Avenue, and north and west of the Iowa River. The IRL would be a mixed-use pedestrian-friendly district with retail, residential, entertainment, food, green space, trails and an attractor that has the "wow factor."

Early guidelines call for a project that reflects and compliments the North Corridor community, but also is an economic engine and serves as a stopping point for people locally and a destination for those outside of Iowa.

The question for the community is what the area should include and how to tie it all together with a theme. The task for the committee that links to virtually all sectors of the Corridor is figuring how to reach that vision.

"This area is already a destination," said Deanna Trumbull, of Trumbull Consulting, who has been marketing IRL for the past 18 months. "What do we add to this community to give people another reason to come?"

Trumbull added the committee would have to reach specific details before it reaches developers hands.

"How do we package all the things in this area into one district?" committee member and Iowa City Area Development Group president Joe Raso said, noting other attractions in the area, such as the Hoover Presidential Library. "How can we create a feeling of what this community is about?"

Steering committee member Josh Schamberger, who also is president of the Iowa City Coralville Convention and Visitors Bureau, has spearheaded the process.

One of the things lacking, he said, in planning for the rain forest, which was once planned for the IRL, was openness, inclusion and transparency, something he thinks this process will remedy.

"This is a flexible plan," Schamberger said.

When the planning process is complete, a date that could fall between August and November, the group plans to have established a request for a proposal that outlines the communities wishes. They will then submit that to developers.

The second meeting would be in two to three weeks, Schamberger said. Community engagement meetings would follow.

"We are trying to paint a picture of what we are trying to create, then have developers submit proposals," Schamberger said.