Cedar Rapids council to again consider Riverside Park sale

Penford Products wants to use site for expansion

The sale of Riverside Park, which next-door neighbor Penford Products Co. wants to buy for possible expansion of its corn wet milling plant, is back on the City Council agenda.

At its meeting Tuesday, the council will discuss and likely move ahead to seek proposals for the parkís purchase from Penford officials or other qualified developers who might want to buy the 11-acre open space along the Cedar River. The council delayed action on Penfordís request in January.

A city staff memorandum to the council suggests that the proposals be evaluated on a list of criteria, including a proposalís financial and market feasibility, the developerís experience and how a proposal coincides with the cityís neighborhood, riverfront and flood-protection plans. Those plans call for a trail along the river. The proposals also will be evaluated on price offered for purchase and the quality of buffering and screening to adjacent properties.

Under a proposed timeline for sale of the property, proposals from Penford and others will be due at City Hall on March 30. The City Council will consider submitted proposals at its meeting April 10 with a final decision on any sale and development agreement to be considered in June, according to the city staff memorandum to the council.

Penford officials announced in December that the company wanted to buy the cityís Riverside Park next to the plant.

In January, Tim Kortemeyer, Penford president and general manager, held three public forums to explain the companyís plans. Kortemeyer said Penford needs the extra space so it can court a partner to participate in an expansion of its current business of making starch, ethanol and other biomaterials.

Such an expansion could involve up to $100 million in new investment and could create up to 50 more jobs to go with the companyís current work force of 227 workers, Kortemeyer said.

The expansion into the park will move Penfordís property up to the 12th Avenue bridge, on the other side of which is the new site of the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library on the edge of Czech Village.

The museumís staff and board of directors have come out in opposition to Penfordís request to buy Riverside Park, saying that the expanded industrial operation and what they said would be additional odors would hurt the museum experience.

City Council member Monica Vernon, too, said in January that new jobs that could come with Penfordís expansion might not be worth additional odors. Council member Justin Shields called Vernonís position "a bunch of baloney." What community wouldnít be fighting for additional manufacturing jobs? Shields asked.

Vernon said she wanted Penford to make a commitment to clean up some of the exterior of its existing plant and to agree to allow a city trail between the plant and the river.

Penfordís Kortemeyer said the company would pay to build a new skate park and ball diamond elsewhere in the city to replace the two facilities now in Riverside Park.

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