to Nicholas Johnson's Coralville Rain Forest Web Site
Rain Forest Terms Discussed
Coralville Presents Project Requirements to Developers
"Iowa Today," p. 12
August 10, 2005
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The agreement, which city officials discussed publicly for the first time last night, would hold The Environmental Project to design, construction and operational requirements or the project would revert back to city control.
‘‘This is putting down on paper what they said they would do,’’ said City Council member Tom Gill. ‘‘These points are to protect the city of Coralville.’’
The city’s proposed terms, which are expected to be negotiated, include selling the 22-acre site to the project for $1.
However, the agreement would require the facility to have at least 3.5 acres of Amazon rain forest, which must be at least 190 feet tall, inside the facility. The project would be required to operate as a rain forest and education facility for at least 21 years, and must always remain a ‘‘museum quality’’ tourist attraction.
The project would also be required to spend at least $120 million on construction and submit a full budget to the city, with the city able to reject the budget and require changes.
The agreement protects the city if the project is unable to attract the 1.1 million to 1.5 million people needed to stay open and is forced to close, city officials said. Under the proposed terms, the city would be allowed to appoint a majority of the project’s board of directors and the land would revert back to the city.
A draft of the proposed terms was presented to the project’s board of directors last week, Coralville Mayor Jim Fausett said. The city has not yet received any response, he said.
City Administrator Kelly Hayworth said it is important that council members reach an agreement with project officials ‘‘soon’’ so that both sides are operating on the same page as construction moves forward in the Iowa River Landing District — which includes the city’s $58.3 million Marriott Hotel and Conference Center.
‘‘I would be very uncomfortable trying to negotiate this from the other side because there’s no wiggle room,’’ City Council member Henry Herwig said last night.
Officials for the proposed rain forest — which would be built just south of Interstate 80 and east of First Avenue — announced a deal last month with international management firm KUD guaranteeing completion of the project by May 1, 2009.
The group still has to raise about $90 million — half of the project’s price tag. Under the terms of its agreement with KUD, the project must raise the remaining money by Oct. 31, 2006, so construction can begin.
Rain Forest Plan Seen as Right Step
"Iowa Today," p. 11
August 11, 2005
The proposed agreement, made public Tuesday night, would guarantee that project design, budget and other requirements are completed as promised. If not, ownership of the 22 acres where The Environmental Project rain forest is to be built would revert back to the city for $1.
‘‘We see this as great progress,’’ project operations director Nancy Quellhorst said.
‘‘It’s a discussion we’ve been anxious to have,’’ she said Wednesday. ‘‘I fully anticipate we’ll be able to come to good terms on this. I don’t think it will take that long.’’
Quellhorst declined to speak on specific terms in the city’s proposed draft agreement but said the agreement also could help the project raise $90 million it still needs by October 2006.
‘‘The more specific we can be in regards to what we’re going to build and where we’re going to build it, the greater the likelihood we’ll have the confidence of potential investors,’’ she said.
Under the city’s draft agreement, project officials would have to spend at least $120 million on the rain forest’s construction. They would be required to maintain the facility as an indoor rain forest, aquarium and educational facility for 21 years, and a museum-quality tourist attraction in future years.
The project also would be required to present a detailed annual budget — which the city could change — until the rain forest opens in 2009.
The agreement also will help the city as it tries to find a developer to coordinate the redevelopment of 180 acres around the proposed forest.
The agreement with The Environmental Project forest could have important implications for Coralville’s other projects in a 180-acre area now called the Iowa River Landing District, city officials say. Completion of the rain forest — located south of Interstate 80 and just east of First Avenue — is important to a hotel the city is building and seen as a catalyst for the commercial redevelopment.
‘‘The common question is, ‘Where is that, what’s going to happen, where are you at on that?’ ’’ Coralville City Administrator Kelly Hayworth said of developers’ inquiries about the rain forest proposal. ‘‘They want to know what they’re working with.’’
Both sides are expected to negotiate specific terms of the agreement in coming weeks.
Published Online: August 10, 2005 12:31 PM
Nancy Quellhorst, operations director for the project, considers the idea of a development agreement between the city and The Environmental Project as a "good thing."
The proposed development agreement would hold the project's developers to a lengthy list of requirements in order for the city to sell the 22-acre site for $1.
"We see this as great progress. It's a discussion we've been anxious to have," Quellhorst said Wednesday. "I fully anticipate we'll be able to come to good terms on this. I don't think it will take that long."
Quellhorst declined to speak on any specific terms in the city's proposed draft, which was presented to the project's board of directors by Coralville Mayor Jim Fausett last week.
The proposed draft agreement, discussed by Coralville City Council members for the first time last night, would hold project developers to a list of requirements in order for the city's sale of the land for $1.
Under the draft agreement, the project would have to maintain the facility as an indoor rain forest, aquarium and educational facility for 21 years, and must always maintain a museum quality tourist attraction in subsequent years, or ownership would revert to the city.
The project would also be required to present a detailed annual budget to the city, who would be able to require changes, until the facility opens.
The draft agreement would also require the project to spend $120 million on construction of the facility and would restrict the $50 million federal energy grant so that it could not be transferred to anything other than the city for the life of the agreement.
Both sides are expected to negotiate specific terms of the development agreement in coming weeks.
The Environmental Project is expected to be built just south of Interstate 80 and east of First Avenue in an area called the Iowa River Landing District. The project -- adjacent to the city's Marriott Hotel and Conference Center -- would include a 4.5-acre rain forest, 1 million gallon aquarium and an educational facility.