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Amount of Land Key in McGraw-Hill Deal

Company Would Like More Valuable Port Acres for Expansion,
But City Would Like to Minimize Space

M.D. Kittle

Dubuque Telegraph Herald

May 25, 2006

[Note: This material is copyright by the Dubuque Telegraph Herald, 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 Dubuque Telegraph Herald.]

It seems a city-sponsored deal that would give McGraw-Hill Higher Education the right to build a $32 million office at the Port of Dubuque comes down to a matter of land.

And some very valuable land at that.

Dave Heiar, Dubuque's economic development director, said the city hopes to have a development agreement ready to place on the June 5 City Council agenda, opening the door for a June 19 public hearing on McGraw-Hill's expansion project.

But the publishing giant has yet to submit plans and renderings for the 140,000-square-foot, four-story office complex, a project the multinational conglomerate had hoped to begin this summer.

The sticking point in the negotiating process (although Heiar stops short of calling it that) is on just how much land the city would offer.

"In general terms, the city's concern is we try to minimize the space that's being sold while still meeting the company's needs for building and potential growth," Heiar said.

The city is looking to sell McGraw-Hill, possibly at a discount, about two acres near the corners of Fifth and Bell streets. The company, Heiar said, would like more than that.

"We are trying to work this agreement so it works for everyone now and doesn't paint anyone in a corner - whether it's their need to grow or (the city's) future needs for development of the port."

Port land has become increasingly valuable in recent years, with the transformation of the old industrial base into a recreational and commercial destination.

Port property is selling for more than half a million dollars per acre. At the current rate, the remaining 15 acres or so of developable port land is pegged at more than $8 million.

"Things are very compacted because it is very limited space," Heiar said. "Once this is used up, there is no replacement property, so we are trying to best utilize every square inch."

Of course, McGraw-Hill might only pay a portion of the going price. A land deal with the city could cut the $1 million price tag in half, one of several incentives offered to the company in return for its expansion - expected to bring more than 400 "good-paying" jobs.

An official from New York-based McGraw-Hill Companies, parent company of McGraw-Hill Higher Education, said he could not reach the company's real estate department for comment by deadline Wednesday.

The development agreement also is expected to address McGraw-Hill's parking needs. Eventually, the city hopes to build an intermodal parking facility at the port, but until then it needs to find adequate space for hundreds of employees.

"There has been some give and take, and (the development agreement) has taken more time to discuss," Heiar said. "Ultimately we need to know what the needs are and how we can utilize as little space as possible."