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Site Meant for Rain Forest to be Cleared

Jennifer Lickteig

The Daily Iowan

March 29, 2006

[Note: This material is copyright by The Daily Iowan, 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 Daily Iowan.]

The Coralville City Council passed a resolution Tuesday to clear the area once the proposed site of the much-debated indoor rain forest, though councilors quickly moved to find ways to solicit community input on redeveloping the newly cleared land - without the tropical trees.

The Environmental Project will announce the official site of the $180 million undertaking today at the Holiday Inn, 2211 U Ave., Amana Colonies, but councilors aren't enthusiastic about their chances.

"It's safe to say that's no longer going to happen," Coralville Councilor John Lundell said. "Frankly, that's fine."

He said he is more motivated by the chance to create something new.

"I'm more excited about this new road we're headed down," Lundell said. "It's a new opportunity to come up with ideas and concepts developed from the community."

In the meantime, All American Concrete in North Liberty was chosen to clear and recycle concrete, asphalt, and gravel from the proposed site for approximately $374,000. May 31 is the scheduled completion date.

"The Iowa River Landing District will be completely revitalized," Fausett said.

The land has sat vacant since the city purchased it two years ago. Nonprofit organizations remain in the space, and Lundell said demolition on those buildings won't begin until those groups find other dwellings.

"Just as soon as the other building is ready for them, they'll be moving," Fausett said. The Johnson County Historical Society building is one of two buildings already set for destruction.

While city officials considered the possibility the land was contaminated from a waste-transfer station, gas station, and roofing businesses that once resided there, the issue is now not considered a factor, and the ground will be leveled and seeded.

"We just want to clean up the site," city engineer Dan Holderness said. "It's kind of unsightly now."