Coralville hotel bids exceed plan

Zack Kucharski

The Gazette

Saturday, November 20, 2004

      CORALVILLE -- City officials here face difficult decisions on how to proceed with a city-financed hotel and conference center after the lowest bidder for the project was more than $10 million higher than construction estimates.

      City officials have until Tuesday to decide whether to award the bid or reject all of the bids and hope for a more favorable outcome in a rebidding.

      The city received three bids before Friday's deadline and had hoped to award the bid Tuesday. However, Neenah, Wis.-based Miron Construction's low bid of about $50 million was significantly higher than the $37 million to $40 million construction estimates, Coralville City Administrator Kelly Hayworth said.

      The two other bids, by Iowa City-based Knutson Construction Services and The Weitz Co., which has an office in Cedar Rapids, were within $3 million of the low bidder, he said.

      "More than likely, we are going to reject the bids, but we don't know that for sure yet," Hayworth said.

      He will spend the weekend reviewing the bids and trying to determine why they were higher than expected. City officials will meet Monday with project consultants and others to reach a final decision before Tuesday's City Council meeting.

      Hayworth said Friday he isn't sure what maximum price the city could afford. The $63.5 million price tag included money needed to repay the loan notes to finance construction.

      "Right now we just don't know. We have to figure out the different options we have," Hayworth said.

      If the bids are rejected, further review would be necessary to decide whether to rebid the project with current specifications or to change the design.

      The plan calls for a 250-room hotel to be operated by Marriott and more than 60,000 square feet of conference and meeting space.

      "The city and City Council are very committed to this project. We have put in a lot of work, and we have good consultants. We'll have to work with them and see what is best," Hayworth said.

      The city still hopes to take action on other projects associated with the hotel and conference center and the nearby proposed $180 million indoor rain forest, which will be next to Interstate 80 just east of First Avenue.

      City Council members are expected to approve the purchase of the remaining parcels of land needed for the projects. The city will pay Jere and Ruth Wissink and Holiday Wrecker $4.5 million for the property and relocation costs.

      The purchase comes after the city reached a settlement with both just minutes before a condemnation board meeting last week to pay $3.25 million for the parcels.

      With this deal completed, the city will have completed all of the land acquisition necessary for the projects.

      The city also is receiving bids until Tuesday for demolition of four properties within the Iowa River Landing area and hopes to award a bid during the meeting that night.

      The meeting starts at 7 p.m. at Coralville City Hall, 1512 Seventh St.