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Coralville leaders entertain options

Officials want variety for visitors to hotel, conference center

By Zack Kucharski

The Gazette

April 9, 2005

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

    CORALVILLE — With construction of the 286-room hotel and conference center planned following a May 4 groundbreaking, officials here are working on what hotel guests could do during down time in town.

    City leaders want to develop a mix of entertainment, commercial property and residences to enhance the Iowa River Landing that is to be home to the center and a $180 million Iowa Environmental Project being planned nearby.

    Though city officials expect the hotel and conference center to be successful on their own, developing a successful surrounding atmosphere is critical for the experience visitors will have, Coralville City Administrator Kelly Hayworth said.

    ‘‘We want to make this a first-class facility,’’ Hayworth said. ‘‘We want to make it a unique facility. Having the other things around in that district that are supportive so you have other things to do, other places to dine is extremely important.’’

    Being distinctly different from existing opportunities is important, too, officials say.

    ‘‘We’re not interested in developing another Coral Ridge Mall or Coralville strip,’’ said Deanna Trumbull, former general manager of Coral Ridge Mall and three other General Growth Property regional centers who now works as a consultant to the city on Iowa River Landing development.

    Interactive entertainment geared toward adults, such as theaters and comedy clubs, family activities and higher-end boutiques and specialty stores are being pursued, she said. City officials hope these kinds of businesses attract area residents, too.

    ‘‘We’re trying to do as much research, spreading the word, and we’re just putting a lot of effort into making sure this is done right,’’ Hayworth said.

    What form the district, south of Interstate 80 between First Avenue and the Iowa River, takes will depend largely on the master developer the City Council selects. Trumbull is to attend a May conference in Las Vegas, looking for a master developer.

    The master developer, expected to be hired by summer, is to mold the different venues into a cohesive area and oversee a variety of decisions, including whether businesses buy or lease the property within the 180-acre district.

    City leaders hope to see the development take shape between 2006 and 2008. Potential retailers have shown a strong interest in the development, Trumbull said. While the city of 17,269-residents is smaller than those that many retailers operate in, the success of the Coral Ridge Mall has put Coralville in the scopes of retailers and developers, she said.

    ‘‘The Interstate, visitors to the University of Iowa and athletic events make this a destination,’’ Trumbull said. ‘‘This is an opportunity to add to that offering.’’

    Next up in the area, demolition is expected to begin Monday on several concrete structures so that a Magellan pipeline running underneath some properties can be relocated. The old pipeline is to be removed by Aug. 1. Concrete from the structures will be ground and recycled during road construction in the district.

    Construction is to begin this summer on an estimated $7.7 million redesign of Ninth Street, the major entrance to both the hotel and conference center and The Environmental Project. The road work, between First Avenue and Quarry Road, is to be bid next month and includes streetscape and other improvements.

    A state Revitalize Iowa’s Sound Economy grant will cover a little more than $3.5 million needed for the road work, to be completed in May 2006.

    City officials also are designing an facility that will have 100,000 square feet for commercial space. That structure is expected to open in 2007 and serve as a connection point for local and interstate buses, Coralville City Engineer Dan Holderness said.