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The Environmental Project: E. Iowa Towns Interested

Tiffin, Riverside Make Rain Forest Proposals

Zack Kucharski

The Gazette

December 10, 2005

And see Zack Kucharski's earlier, online report, "Riverside, Tiffin Developers Seeking to Land Rain Forest," below

[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.]


    Private developers in Tiffin and Riverside are pursuing aggressively the proposed $180 million indoor rain forest in an attempt to keep the mega-attraction near Linn and Johnson counties.

    Developers told The Gazette talks are in the early stages.

    Details of their proposals emerged one day after The Environmental Project leaders promoting the rain forest said they would look for other locations after they couldn’t reach an agreement with Coralville on a 22-acre site just south of Interstate 80 in that city.

    Developers said they are interested in building the artificial rain forest across the street from the 400-acre Washington County Casino Resort being built in the 950-resident town of Riverside.

    ‘‘It’s still a little preliminary but we certainly think if it doesn’t make it to Coralville, it makes more sense to keep it in this area than going to Des Moines or Dubuque,’’ Dan Kehl, Washington County Casino Resort CEO, said.

    The rain forest could be built on part of 400 acres River Products owns and is considering donating, said Glenn Patton, a casino board member. The site has a huge quarry and 45-acre lake.

    ‘‘With the championship golf course connected with the casino and a 1,000-seat event center we’re building there, we’d have a destination point that would be a very, very big tourist attraction,’’ Patton said.

    The casino is interested in financially assisting the rain forest and being a partner for Vision Iowa funding, Patton said. No specific amount of assistance has been determined but Patton said casino leadership unofficially has discussed $10 million.

    ‘‘We’re really looking at an economic boost for Washington County,’’ Patton said. ‘‘With that, Johnson County would benefit hugely because of the spillover because obviously there aren’t the number of facilities needed to support the attraction.’’

    A different group of developers is interested in keeping the project five miles from the Coralville site that is losing favor with The Environmental Project — in the 1, 000-resident town of Tiffin.

    Developers of a 202-acre commercial development called The Villages, on the north side of I-80, suggested their spot to rain forest officials as talks about locating in Coralville fizzled.

    ‘‘We’re dead serious about this. We hope we’re considered seriously as an option to keep this first-class attraction in the corridor,’’ said Jim Angstman, vice president of Regency Homes and High Development Corp. in Eastern Iowa. ‘‘It’s a loss for everybody in Linn and Johnson counties if the rain forest doesn’t relocate in Linn or Johnson County.’’

    Angstman’s group is willing to partner with the rain forest on a Vision Iowa grant application and hoping to gain support from corridor economic development groups and business leaders who were interested in the Coralville site. ‘‘We might not have the war chest of Dubuque, but it’s much easier to get to for people from Des Moines, Chicago, Minneapolis, St. Louis and Kansas City,’’ he said.

    The Environmental Project, which announced Thursday it is looking for sites other than the Coralville one, has received interest from eight or nine communities, including Des Moines and Dubuque, project Executive Director David Oman said. He said he expects a site to be chosen within several weeks.

    Rain forest officials are about $90 million short of what they need to build the attraction. They must raise about $50 million in non-federal money to regain access to a $50 million federal appropriation, which was frozen after at least $2.9 million of it had been spent on planning.

    The soured relationship in Coralville likely will mean an uphill battle for any Johnson and Linn County groups asked to help pursue the rain forest, said Josh Schamberger, executive director of the Iowa City/Coralville Convention and Visitors Bureau. Organizations that may be asked for support have had negative experiences with the rain forest during the five years the project was proposed in Coralville, he said.


Riverside, Tiffin Developers Seeking to Land Rain Forest

Zack Kucharski  -

The Gazette Online

December 9, 2005 11:53 a.m.



Private developers in Tiffin and Riverside said this morning they are aggressively pursuing the proposed $180 million Environmental Project rain forest in an attempt to keep the mega-attraction near Linn and Johnson counties.

Details about two new Iowa Technology Corridor sites come a day after rain forest leaders said they would look for other locations after failing to reach a land transfer agreement on a 22-acre site in Coralville.

In Riverside, developers have proposed locating the rain forest across the street from a 400-acre Washington County Casino Resort that is being built.

The rain forest would be on a portion of a 400-acre site owned by River
Products. The site contains a huge quarry and 45-acre lake and would be an ideal setting for the rain forest, said Glenn Patton, a member of the casino's board of directors and part of Prudential Partners Real Estate Group.

"We feel it'd be a beautiful property, there are two rivers there," Patton told The Gazette this morning, referring to the property bounded by the Iowa and English Rivers.

"We'd anticipate a beautiful recreation complex in addition to the rain forest. With the championship golf course connected with the casino and a 1,000 seat event center we're building there, we'd have a destination point that would be a very, very big tourist attraction."

The casino is interested in financially assisting the rain forest and partner in obtaining Vision Iowa funding, Patton said. While an amount has not been determined, Patton confirmed casino leaders have kicked around the idea of providing about $10 million as the matching funding.

Meanwhile, developers working on a 202-acre commercial development called The Villages of Tiffin are pitching their site, on the north side of
Interstate 80 and is about four miles west of where The Environmental Project was considering in Coralville.

The Villages developers approached rain forest officials about the Tiffin site once they saw talks with Coralville erode. They have the option of pushing the project back more than a half mile from I-80, said Jim Angstman, vice president of Regency Homes and High Development Corp. in Eastern Iowa.

"We're dead serious about this. We hope we're considered seriously as an option to keep this first-class attraction in the corridor," Angstman told The Gazette this morning. "It's a loss for everybody in Linn and Johnson counties if the rain forest doesn't relocate in Linn and Johnson County."

Angstman said the group would partner with the rain forest on a Vision Iowa grant application. He said he also hopes to gain support from corridor economic development groups and business leaders who were interested in the Coralville site.

City leaders in Dubuque and Des Moines also have had meetings about locating the project there.

The $180 million rain forest is still working to raise about $90 million needed for construction and also must raise about $50 million in money to regain access to a $50 million federal appropriation, which has been frozen.