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It's Time for Coralville to Move On


Iowa City Press-Citizen

December 9, 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.]

The news Thursday that the city of Coralville will explore other development options to the $180 million indoor rain forest project for land it owns south of Interstate 80 and east of First Avenue is just what we wanted to hear.

The land is next to the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center project, which is well under way. It would be difficult to find a more valuable parcel in our entire area. As the city says, it's "highly visible and easily accessed."

And it's ready for development.

The time obviously has arrived for the city and our area to move forward, and the rain forest project is not moving forward. The project has announced no new funding in nearly two years. It has recently seen an important backer, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, insert language into legislation that requires it to match what's left of $50 million in federal funding before using it. It has made a series of undiplomatic demands on the city of Coralville that seem childish and misguided. And it has raised the possibility of debt financing, which we believe would be a serious mistake.

So what is next for the land?

We don't know, and that's OK.

What we do know is that the city of Coralville has a proven track record of making savvy business decisions. You don't have to look any farther than the Coral Ridge Mall and the impact that project has had on the area to know that. But if you wanted more examples, there's the Brown Deer golf course project, the hotel and conference center and how officials have handled the rain forest project, giving a serious look, but raising important questions before committing.

We are looking forward to learning about other options for this important piece of property. There's obviously a great opportunity there for Coralville and the entire area.