CEDAR RAPIDS — The City Council is ready to vote on an agreement to sell the 11-acre Riverside Park, 11 months after Penford Products Co. first publicly said it was interested.
Mayor Ron Corbett on Friday said a majority of the City Council will vote on Tuesday to approve the development agreement — six months in the making — with Penford.
“It is out of the ordinary to sell park land, and that’s why we took the necessary time to get this deal right,” Corbett said. “We’re in difficult economic times right now, and we have a company that wants to expand, and we should be assisting them and supporting them in any way we can.”
Tim Kortemeyer, president and general manager at Penford, on Friday said the company has approved the development agreement with the city.
“We’re very satisfied with how it is written and we don’t have any objection to it,” Kortemeyer said.
Kortemeyer said the company continues to look for a partner to help with a plant expansion, which he repeated Friday could be a $30 million to $100-million venture that adds 25 to 50 more jobs at the plant.
In the proposed development agreement, Penford would pay $1.67 million for the park, an amount based on a city appraisal of the land and an analysis of other costs, including replacing park amenities, related to the park’s sale.
The city will use part of the money from any sale to replace a skate park, ball diamond and playground now at Riverside Park at a yet-to-be-determined alternative park site, City Manager Jeff Pomeranz said. The park property will not transfer to Penford until the company needs to take ownership of the park to expand, Pomeranz said.
The city manager said the only significant item that Penford was unwilling to put into the written development agreement was a request that the company spruce up the existing plant. That doesn’t mean the company won’t make aesthetic improvements, but they didn’t want such a requirement in an agreement centered on expansion, Pomeranz said.
“From the perspective of the expectations of the City Council, we think those were met, very close to 100 percent,” Pomeranz said. “… Ultimately, this allows an existing business in Cedar Rapids to expand. It creates tax base and it creates jobs. … It all comes together in a positive fashion for the community.”
One of the key critics of Penford’s request to purchase Riverside Park was the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, which sits on the other side of the 12th Avenue bridge from Riverside Park and Penford.
Gail Naughton, president/CEO of the library and museum, on Friday said the museum is pleased that the proposed city-Penford agreement allows for the construction of a new service road for the museum and provides for a landscaping barrier between the plant and the museum and neighborhood.
“We’ve been appreciative of the effort that has been extended us to work with the museum on issues raised by the sale of the park to Penford,” Naughton said. “Penford has been a good neighbor, and we understand the agreement and that the expansion will be taking place.”