Developer to take on Cedar Rapids casino parking ramp debt, city decides

$25-million, 1,000-stall parking ramp and skywalk planned

Rick Smith
Published: December 11 2013 | 5:42 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 12:44 am in
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The city has shifted gears and plans to have a private firm pay the upfront costs to develop and build the $25-million, 1,000-stall parking ramp and skywalk to serve the proposed Cedar Crossing Casino at First Avenue and First Street SW.

State law allows such a "lease-purchase" arrangement if the city sets out the general terms of the project and then qualifies a builder to construct it.

Dave Elgin, the city’s public works director and city engineer, this week said the lease-purchase approach will ensure that the construction of the parking ramp can begin immediately if the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission awards a state gaming license to the casino at the commission’s April meeting.

In recent weeks, the city has sought requests from developers to present their qualifications to take on the ramp project.

Ryan Companies U.S. Inc. and Frew Development Group both have submitted their qualifications, both are qualified to do the work and both will be interviewed by a project selection committee before Christmas, Rob Davis, the city’s engineering operations manager, said.

The city is requiring that the winning developer build a three-deck ramp with 1,000 parking spaces that has the capacity to expand to 1,200 spaces. The project price cannot exceed $25 million, must include flat parking decks and public restrooms and must be built so its exterior design is coordinated with the exterior of the casino. The project must be complete by June 26, 2015, in preparation for the proposed opening of the casino on July 3, 2015, according to the city’s Request for Qualifications documents.

The intent is to have the parking ramp "shovel-ready" if the state commission approves a casino license in April, council member Chuck Swore said.

The city will take on no financial risk with the parking ramp, the city’s Davis said.

The city’s initial plan with the casino investment group, Cedar Rapids Development Group LLC, had been for the city to pay to build the ramp and to recoup its costs from the increase in property tax revenue coming to the community from the $130-million casino facility. The increase in property-tax revenue will still go to pay the cost of the ramp, only it will pay off the developer who builds it, not the city.

Once the developer is paid off, the city will own the ramp, Joe O’Hern, the city’s executive administrator for development services, said.

O’Hern said the city anticipates using some of the spaces in the casino ramp to provide parking for non-casino customers, including those who attend events at the city’s McGrath Amphitheatre that is nearby.


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