CEDAR RAPIDS — The Indian Creek Nature Center will forgo $200,000 it would have earned by leasing space on center-owned land for a digital billboard, partly because it doesn’t want to alienate donors whose support it needs for a $4 million new facility.
After spirited debate last week, the Nature Center won the backing of a 5-3 City Council to rezone a piece of center-owned land on Highway 100 — east of First Avenue SE next to the Slumberland furniture store — for commercial development.
Center Director Rich Patterson has said the center expects to sell six to eight acres of the 35-acre parcel of donated land for more than $2 million. There’s also been an offer to lease a small section of the property for a digital billboard for an upfront fee of about $200,000, he has said.
But on Thursday, Patterson reported that some of the center’s own trustees as well as members of the public weighed in on their opposition to the billboard.
“We never knew the absolute hatred that some people have for billboards, particularly the electronic ones,” he said. “I don’t think any of us anticipated that.”
Nature Center officials learned last week that the Hall Perrine Foundation of Cedar Rapids had awarded them a $1 million challenge grant. The funding requires the center to raise an additional $3 million in contributions in three years for a planned new building about a half-mile west of the existing one along Otis Road SE, Patterson reported.
Patterson said the center’s board came to the realization that its effort to raise the $3 million for the new building, plus an additional $2 million for the center’s endowment to maintain the building over time, could be complicated by the billboard controversy.