Cedar Rapids council ready to negotiate with Penford on possible Riverside Park sale

Proposed sale price is $1.67 million; city seeks tree replantings, air quality assurances

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CEDAR RAPIDS — The City Council will vote today on heading to the bargaining table with Penford Products Co., which wants to buy Riverside Park next door to its plant for a possible expansion.

The council’s vote will finalize the terms — discussed a month ago — that it will try to get into any sale agreement with Penford. Officials will ask the company to pay $1.67 million for the 11-acre Riverside Park; pieces of A Street and 14th Avenue SW; replacement of amenities in the park; and repayment of grant money that the city has received to support the park.

The appraised value of the park itself is $670,000, according to city figures.

The proposed terms also will ask Penford to shoulder the cost of relocating a large trunk sanitary sewer and a large storm sewer from the park. In addition, the city will need to retain an easement at the property so it can maintain a flood wall, pumping station and storm sewer pump there.

Cedar Rapids’ parks master plan envisions a trail between Penford’s plant and the Cedar River. However, the city’s proposal to Penford concedes that the trail may need to shift at the plant along First Street SW rather than running along the river.

The proposal also will ask Penford to provide its nearest neighbor to the east, the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, continued access to A Street SW. Officials with that facility, which sits on the other side of the 12th Avenue SW bridge from Riverside and Penford, has publicly opposed the plant’s expansion.

Penford, a corn wet-milling plant with about 225 employees in Cedar Rapids, announced in December that it wanted to buy the city park so it had room to attract a partner for a possible expansion into new products. The company held three public meetings in January to spell out its plans, which it has said could include new investment of between $30 million and $100 million and the creation 20 to 50 more permanent jobs.

President and General Manager Tim Kortemeyer said Monday that the company remains “very interested” in the park and he is “very positive” that the parties will come to an agreement on the sale.

As for any specific plans, Kortemeyer said Penford continues to negotiate with possible partners, but nothing is yet certain.

“We’re always in conversation with partners that are in the biotechnology space,” he said. “There’s a lot of activity going on. But to say when there’s going to be alignment with Penford and an opportunity ... that could literally be anywhere from a month (from) now to a number of years in the future.”

In keeping with suggestions made last month by Mayor Ron Corbett and other council members, the proposed terms call for the city retain the deed to the park property so officials can review any planned expansion at Penford once the details unfold.

The terms also call for Penford to provide “significant” screening from neighboring properties with mature trees. The proposal asks Penford to plant four trees for every tree removed from the site and to add 50 other trees.

Finally, officials also want Penford to show that any expansion will not harm air quality or add unpleasant odors.

After Penford approached the city about buying the park, the city requested proposals from any entities interested in the property. Penford submitted the only proposal.

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