CEDAR RAPIDS — Penford Products Co. has gotten its wish.
On an 8-0 vote Tuesday, the City Council approved a development agreement that will allow the company to buy Riverside Park, next door to its current property, for future expansion. Penford, which employs 250 people and processes corn into starch products and ethanol, will pay $1.67 million for the neighborhood park.
In exchange, Penford has agreed to a list of conditions that include providing access for a future flood protection wall and a trail between the plant and the Cedar River, and allowing the city to build an access road on the east side of what is now the park to be used as a service road for the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library.
Officials with the museum and library, which sits on the other side of the 12th Avenue Bridge from Riverside Park and Penford, had spoken out earlier this year against the purchase plan, largely because they thought they would lose the second access to their building.
Gail Naughton, president/CEO of the museum and library, on Tuesday thanked Penford and the City Council for addressing those concerns. She said Penford had been a good neighbor to her facility, and that the Czech Village and nearby New Bohemia neighborhoods developed in part because of jobs that the Penford plant provided in the area.
Council members Justin Shields, Chuck Swore and Don Karr said Penford has provided good jobs in Cedar Rapids for years and deserved support in its effort to expand and add more jobs. Shields called the matter “a no-brainer.”
Colleague Ann Poe, who earlier had reservations about the plan, said she was happy that Penford addressed the council concerns about an access road to the museum and about air quality at the plant.
Poe said she still wanted to know where the amenities in Riverside Park — a skate park, ball diamond and playground — might be re-created, and Christine Butterfield, the city’s community development director, said she suspected that the features would be placed somewhere in the 230 acres of new park greenway that has been created from buyouts and demolitions of flood-damaged properties.
Council member Kris Gulick said he worried that the development agreement might not give the city the ability to reject a Penford expansion plan if one eventually surfaces and the council doesn’t like it.
Under the development agreement with Penford, the city retains ownership and use of the park until such time as the company has an actual expansion proposal. The city has to sign off on a site plan for any expansion before it must hand over ownership of the park, and Monica Vernon said she felt the council could reject a plan it doesn’t like at that point.
Tim Kortemeyer, president and general manager at Penford, did not speak at Tuesday’s council meeting, but last week he said Penford earlier had approved the development agreement with the city.
Kortemeyer said the company continues to look for a partner to help with a plant expansion, which he said could be a $30-million-to-$100-million venture that adds 25 to 50 jobs at the plant.
The agreement approved on Tuesday requires the company to make a minimum investment of $10 million as part of any park purchase. The agreement doesn’t include any job-creation requirement.
The agreement will remain in place until 2022 to see if Penford comes up with an actual expansion plan and needs the park land. Once Penford takes possession it has three years to invest and expand, according to the agreement.