Government

Linn County looking for someone to operate Dows Farm

Agri-community will have 251 housing units, trails, conservation elements - and a farm

This rendering shows an aerial perspective of Dows Farm, an agri-community being proposed for 179 acres owned by Linn Co
This rendering shows an aerial perspective of Dows Farm, an agri-community being proposed for 179 acres owned by Linn County along Mount Vernon Road east of Cedar Rapids. Linn County is now accepting proposals for operating and managing the farm, which would host field trips, workshops and volunteer days. The deadline for proposals is March 18. (Reynolds Urban Design)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Linn County is seeking proposals for someone to operate a farm at an agri-community north of Mount Vernon Road — and is open to ideas of just how to do that.

Right now, the vision for the 179-acre Dows Farm development includes a working farm with 251 housing units, walking trails and land conservation elements.

The county is asking for proposals from experienced farmers or organizations that could develop and manage the farm’s agricultural operations. It’s expected the farm would provide community engagement opportunities, such as field trips, workshops, cooking classes or volunteer days.

March 18 is the deadline for proposals.

It’s possible the county could lease the land to a farmer, or someone could establish a nonprofit to operate the farm, Linn County Planning & Development Director Les Beck said.

“At this point, we are waiting for what might work best for farmers or people who are interested in operating the farm,” Beck said.

The county might consider selling land for the farm, but the purchase agreement would have to be “structured very carefully,” Beck said.

“The relationship between the farm and the development is really important because we have a vision for a certain type of farm out there,” Beck said. “We want to ensure that if the county sells the land, the vision is followed through, and the farm operation is a good neighbor to the development and vice versa, the residents are good neighbors to the farm.”

The county has been working on the design with Reynolds Urban Design.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

The next phase will be building the residential properties, which are to include apartments, townhouses and cottages.

Beck hopes the county will be working with a developer by the end of the year, if not sooner.

Beck said the county does not have cost estimates for the housing, but envisions a price-point that attracts a variety of residents, including renters, first-time homebuyers and retirees.

“We’re hoping by providing a range of housing types, we can provide opportunities for people at different stages of their life,” Beck said.

Agri-communities are a “pretty successful trend,” he said.

Beck visited the Hendrick Farm agri-community in Chelsea, Canada, last year. Seeing the 6-acre organic farm and residential district reinforced the idea behind the agri-community structure that is “intentionally designed to help build community,” Beck said.

Dows Farm “could be a game changer,” Linn County Supervisor Brent Oleson said.

Oleson compared the project to Prospect Meadows, a sports complex at County Home Road and Highway 13 in Marion that opened eight baseball fields and a Miracle Field for differently abled children last year.

The Dows Farm project, he said, “is on that level.”

“The county is not in the development game,” Oleson said. “We can zone it and incentivize through property taxes or other measures to attract the right developer.”

Dows Farm is bordered by Mount Vernon Road on the south, Dows Road on the west and the Squaw Creek Ridge residential development on the northeast. More than half the land will be preserved for conservation purposes and managed by Linn County Conservation.

The county bought the 179-acre Dows Farm property in 2016. The county paid $7.2 million for that land plus 306 acres to expand Squaw Creek Park.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

For more information or to submit a proposal visit LinnCounty.org/DowsFarm.

Comments: (319) 368-8664; grace.king@thegazette.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.