Cedar Rapids planning commission approves zoning change for Penford expansion

Riverside Park to remain open until Penford presents specific plan for expansion

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The City Planning Commission on Thursday unanimously approved zoning and land-use changes needed for Penford Products Co. to buy and expand into the city’s Riverside Park next to the corn-processing plant.

The action by the commission, which makes recommendations to the City Council on zoning matters, was routine and procedural because the City Council, after months of review, agreed in November to sell the park to Penford for industrial expansion.

The council is retaining the deed to the park property and will use the site as a park until Penford has a specific expansion plan to present to the city. The council also must sign off on any Penford site development plan before the city hands over the deed to the park.

Erwin Froehlich, director of operations at Penford, told the commission that, "right now we’re in discussions with a number of business partners" as the company continues to explore an expansion opportunity.

Penford, which employs 250 people and processes corn into starch products and ethanol at its riverfront plant in Cedar Rapids, first announced its request to buy the city’s Riverside Park a year ago.

In November, the council and the company signed a development agreement that calls for the city to sell the park to the company for $1.67 million. In turn, Penford agreed to invest at least $10 million in any expansion. The agreement also calls for the company to provide buffering between any expansion and the properties around it.

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