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Keep Moving Forward After the Rain Forest


Iowa City Press-Citizen

April 9, 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.]

We are glad to hear that Coralville leaders are looking into how best to use land that will no longer go for the proposed rain forest ("Making new plans for rain forest site," April 1, and "Tiffin backers woo rain forest," April 8).

At 3½ hours away from nearly 18 million people, the Iowa River Landing -- a 180-acre plot south of Interstate 80, east of First Avenue and bordered to the south and east by the Iowa River -- remains a prime location for development.

Choosing a new direction will take a few months -- a tentative schedule calls for finalizing a 14- to 17-member steering committee by April 21, extensive community planning meetings in June and July before soliciting requests for proposals from developers Aug. 4 -- but we're happy to hear that Coralville officials recognize they need to spend that time building community support. After the prolonged negotiations with and promises of the Environmental Project, local residents and investors will most likely be suspicious of any project that sounds more visionary than practical.

In the meantime, Tiffin and Riverside -- along with Pella, Grinnell and Dubuque -- will have to wait until mid-May for the Environmental Project to decide which site will host its rain forest.

We still urge local developers to avoid delaying any decision because of the rain forest timetable. Although it is still fun to dream about a project that will bring 500 temporary construction jobs, 200 permanent jobs and more than 1.1 million annual visitors, the project's success will come down to money. And, because many of the people who worked to land the project in Coralville are now reluctant to lend political or economic capital, that funding will be that much harder to come by.