State approves grant for Iowa City office park project

Project completion planned for March 2014

The first portion of a long-delayed 243-acre office park development on the northeast side of Iowa City appears to be moving forward with the approval of a state grant for construction of an access road.

The Iowa Transportation Commission on Tuesday approved a $1.9 million grant from the state's Revitalize Iowa's Sound Economy program to provide part of the funding to build about 2,100 feet of Moss Ridge Road and reconstruct approximately 2,300 feet of Highway 1 north of Interstate 80 for access to Moss Office Park.

Completion of the road construction is targeted for March 2014.

Jeff Davidson, Iowa City director of planning and zoning, said the first nine lots of the office/research park will be developed by R&R Realty/R&R Equity Partners of West Des Moines, along with the Moss family, the owner of the former Moss Dairy Farm.

"We hope to get the nine lots opened up and we have a prospect that we can't disclose at this time," Davidson said. "The prospect is anxious to get a building constructed as soon as we can get the road built."

A report to the Iowa City Planning and Zoning Commission in September 2012 indicated that Moss Ridge Road will be sufficient to provide access to the initial nine lots but inadequate to handle traffic for the full 243-acre commercial office park. It recommended that any preliminary plat include an extension and realignment of Oakdale Boulevard, which will involve land adjacent to the Moss property.

Davidson said the city is negotiating with NCS Pearson to obtain right-of-way through its property for Moss Ridge Road. He was unable to provide a timeline for the start of road construction.

A large commercial office park was proposed for the Moss property in 2010, but the final project did not come to fruition.

Ground was broken in June 2010 for Moss Green Urban Village, a 170-acre project billed by its developers as the first-in-the-nation "macro green" business park. The sustainable development would have office buildings, shops and housing converging with trees, creeks, trails and recreational areas.

In October 2010, the city council voted unanimously to approve up to $15.3 million in property tax rebates for the developers of Moss Green Urban Village. Initial construction was expected to begin within a year.

Davidson said building out the infrastructure before developing the office park saddled that earlier project with significant upfront costs.

"My recollection was that it got up into the $20 million range and there was no financial institution that would lend them that kind of money," Davidson said. "The Moss family has since terminated its agreement with that development group."

Davidson expressed confidence that R&R Realty/R&R Equity Partners will be able to get the initial nine lots developed in Moss Office Park.

"They've done a number of office parks in West Des Moines, and they're looking to expand into Iowa City and Omaha," he said. "We're really anxious to work with R&R. We think they really have good experience and we're looking forward to them bringing that here."

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