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Rain Forest Board to Make One More Pitch to Coralville

Zack Kucharski

The Gazette

November 10, 2005, 3:20 p.m.

[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.]

AMANA, IA - Members of the board of directors of the Environmental Project have told project officials to once more attempt negotiations with Coralville -- and not other cities -- as the site of the proposed $180 million indoor rain forest.

   Board members on Thursday want the project to resolve issues surrounding the transfer of the 22-acre site located just south of Interstate 80 and east of First Avenue from the city to the project. The sides have been negotiating for more than two months, but have not reached any resolution.

   ''The direction from the board is to see one more time if we can work out some of these issues with Coralville,'' said David Oman, the project's executive director. ''We have similar interests in understanding whether the site criteria, or the technical issues financing, the politics and all of this will work or not work.''

   Project officials have been working with the city since 2001 to build the project.

   Speculation the project may move to another city has been growing as the project's relationship with City Council members has strained, and as the majority of City Council members have expressed doubt over the project's leadership and future. Project officials and City Council members have been at odds in recent months with the project's selection
of a new architect and at the project's inability to raise the remaining $90 million needed for construction.

   Oman said Thursday he expects the discussions with Coralville to move quickly and he says time is increasingly important to the project and the city. Both sides need some sort of resolution because both are entering critical times in their respective projects. The project is entering a critical stage in design work which requires specific site information, while the city is in the middle of a massive 180-acre redevelopment in the area the rain forest is proposed to be built.