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City Looks for Other Options for Land

Gregg Hennigan

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.]

Now that Coralville is no longer considered the likely home of The Environmental Project, city leaders must decide what to do with the 22-acres it had set aside for the project.

The city spent $17 million to acquire and make improvements to the land and to relocate businesses at the location southeast of Interstate Highway 80 and First Avenue.

The city estimates the land now is worth $20 million, and State Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, calls it "primetime land."

"It's probably the main entryway to our Coralville, Iowa City, University of Iowa area," he said.

Jacoby said that when he was on the City Council several years ago, the city had discussed various possibilities for the site, including a river walk and an indoor water park.

Councilor John Lundell said residents have suggested a water park to him as well, but he thinks that is too ordinary of an attraction.

"I would like to strive for a very unique use that will put Coralville on the destination map for folks to want to travel to," he said.

City Administrator Kelly Hayworth said that with the rain forest being de-emphasized, the city would now start a discussion with the community to get their thoughts.

He said developers have approached the city in the past with ideas. Some were entertainment related, he said, and others were major retailers. He declined to elaborate, saying the city now may want to hold more in-depth discussions with them.

The city didn't entertain proposals while the rain forest project was a possibility, Hayworth said, because "as we have stated before, we were always working with The Environmental Project, so we never considered any of the alternatives."

Now, though, the city is likely to be all ears.