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Rain Forest Finalists Must Raise $25 Million

Erin Jordan

Des Moines Register

March 30, 2006

And see below, from day before, Erin Jordan, "Four Locations Finalists for Indoor Rain Forest."

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Amana, Ia. Four Iowa communities vying to host the Iowa Environmental Project will try to come up with close to 40 acres of land and $25 million.

Grinnell, Tiffin, Riverside and Pella/Red Rock are still in the running to be the home of the $180 million project that would include an indoor rain forest, aquarium and large-format theater, the project's board of directors announced Wednesday. Dubuque would be considered if the rain forest concept were changed to adapt with the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium, project planners said.

The board plans to select a site in May, said David Oman, the project's executive director.

"We are happy to have an extra six weeks to put more things together and make our offer more exciting," said Glenn Patton, who is heading up efforts to bring the project to Riverside, a town of about 1,000 in southeast Iowa. "I don't know that anyone's going to be able to come up with $25 million."

The finalists were chosen from seven communities that submitted formal proposals for the project, Oman said. A team visited each site and evaluated them based on available land, natural setting, access and local funding, he said. Coralville, which had been the site of the project since 2000, recently lost interest in the project and will no longer be considered.

The project was originally slated for a 20- to 25-acre site in Coralville, just south of Interstate Highway 80 near the Iowa River, Mayor Jim Fausett said. When project planners asked for a quieter location, Coralville found 30 acres farther from I-80, he said.

"Now, I understand they want 40 acres," Fausett said. City leaders were reluctant to come up with more land and money for a project they do not think will succeed, he said.

Des Moines, which spurned the rain forest earlier, expressed renewed interest last year in conjunction with a plan to move Blank Park Zoo near Principal Park.

But Des Moines did not submit a formal proposal because the city did not have enough time to evaluate the project's requirements, said Mayor Frank Cownie.

Backers have until December 2007 to match a $50 million federal grant or lose the money. Oman said the group is working on getting a corporate partner that would help pay for the project.

Project planners expect complete fundraising by the end of the year and build the project by the end of 2009, he said.

Four Locations Finalists for Indoor Rain Forest

Erin Jordan

Des Moines Register

March 29, 2006

Four Iowa communities Grinnell, Pella, Riverside and Tiffin still are being considered as the location of a proposed rain forest in Iowa.

The board of directors of the Iowa Environmental Project narrowed its list of communities to four today, officially eliminating Coralville as a contender after negotiations with city officials there fizzled late last year.

Seven communities submitted formal proposals and 16 cities expressed interest in the $180 million project, which will include a 4.5-acre indoor rain forest, 1.2 million-gallon aquarium and theatre.

Board officials said they could announce their final pick in May.

"Improved project designs by the new architectural team make the project better suited for areas with more, rather than less, acreage, in a quiet, green setting," said Len Hadley of Cedar Rapids, site selection committee chairman. "Each of these four communities selected as finalists offers these amenities."

The Environmental Project's board of directors also will continue discussions with the The National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque about pairing the two facilities as the river museum plans for expansion.