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Rainforest Project Deadline Missed


December 2, 2005

[Note: This material is copyright by KWWL-TV7, 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 KWWL-TV7.]

An important deadline involving land and money to build an indoor rainforest in Coralville has passed. And, the city didn't deliver.

A sign marks 'Iowa River Landing' in Coralville. The sign says it's the future home of the Iowa Environmental Project. It also says it's 'coming soon'. But right now, project planners and city leaders don't know if the $180 million attraction will happen there at all.

Coralville Mayor Jim Fausett says, "The letter was strong and it was meant to get our attention." He's talking about a letter he received last month from Robert Ray, the Environmental Project board chair. It says if their demands aren't met, the board will consider moving the project elsewhere.

"We need clarity on the amount of land, timing, local participation and support. Those are fair questions. Their questions too are fair," says David Oman.  He's the Environmental Project Executive Director.

Mayor Fausett says Coralville is still committed to the project. There are significant resources tied up already on this site. The city's Marriott Hotel is on schedule, set to open next August. "This location we have is probably the prime location in the state. I don't think there's any question about that." Fausett says Interstate 80 delivers 50,000 passing cars daily. Dubuque can't match that.

That's why Coralville council members say they're not worried about the deadline passing. They want to work things out in a face-to-face meeting next week. "If it's not going to happen then the council, rightfully so, has to start looking at their options," Fausett says.

"The city has questions and concerns, we do too! So, the best way to resolve them is to put a fuse on this discussion, not let it go on much longer. Put the right people in the room and decide whether we can make it work or not," Oman says.

Until then, the project proceeds as planned. The project would include a one-million-gallon aquarium, education center, multi-media theater, restored prairie and other features. It's supposed to open in 2009.