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Nov 7, 2013

Coralville Iowa's Transformation of Brownfields to Sustainable Communities

Category: General
Posted by: rita

Dan Holderness, Coralville's City Engineer, received a Brownfields Leadership Award from NALGEP in 2013.

Next year, when people in Coralville, Iowa enjoy rooftop dining at 30hop Restaurant, many of them won't realize that their view 15 years ago would have been an expanse of dilapidated businesses on industrial land. Even fewer will know that their dining experience and the revitalization of the 180-acre Iowa River Landing all started with the City's vision in the mid-1980s. At that time, it seemed nearly impossible to transform an area with 74 different owners of 110 parcels of unplanned development. But they knew that the Iowa River Landing’s location had a higher and better use than the uses at the time, which included a salvage yard, a waste hauling business, a truck stop, and adult entertainment establishments.

Today, the Iowa River Landing is an attractive neighborhood that serves as an impressive gateway to the town of Coralville as motorists enter the town on I-80. Fifty-four acres have already been redeveloped into two premier hotels, a Von Maur upscale department store, a medical clinic serving 300,000 patient visits per year, a brewery, a wetlands park, mixed-use buildings, and more. It is a model for sustainable community development by using techniques such as recycling and reusing buildings, installing stormwater planters and permeable pavement, using LED street lighting, and providing electric car charging stations. From bio-roofs to community gardens to wetland education parks, sustainable innovation has been a central element to revitalization. Whether integrating revitalization as Wet-and-Muddy Days in 7th grade ecological curricula or as part of local university master planning classes, the City has engaged all levels of the community in breaking the brownfield cycle. In the next phase of development, an intermodal transportation center will provide resources for bicyclists, walkers and carpoolers. Given all of this success, it is no surprise that Coralville won a NALGEP Brownfields Leadership Award in 2013 and regional and national first runner-up Phoenix Awards from the EPA in 2007.

"An important driver of our success is the ideal location of Iowa River Landing," said Dan Holderness, Coralville's City Engineer. Not only is it just off I-80 at the gateway to Coralville from the east, but its proximity to the University of Iowa ensures that there is demand for hotels, retail, medical facilities and offices. Redevelopment has allowed the neighborhood to capitalize on its waterfront location, as well.

Despite being in a prime location for private investment, businesses balked at first because of perceived and actual contamination at the site. "Coralville has been extremely aggressive in successfully winning EPA Brownfields grants and in using those grants for maximum effectiveness," said Dave Koch with Terracon. Terracon is the brownfields consultant for the City of Coralville’s Brownfields Program, carrying out testing, community outreach on brownfields issues, and brownfields redevelopment assistance. The 98 Phase I and 46 Phase II Environmental Site Assessments funded by the EPA and other agencies have laid the foundation for private investment and redevelopment. Coralville has received $3,273,000 in 14 grants from the EPA since 1998.

As of September 2013, the City of Coralville Brownfields Program has leveraged EPA grant dollars to constructed private investment at a rate of 1:166. Coralville has been successful in leveraging EPA funding to generate not only private investment, but assistance from a variety of other agencies, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the University of Iowa, the Iowa Department of Transportation, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources' Brownfields Program, the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grants, and the Iowa Economic Development Authority. With so many partners at the table, Coralville has been able to maintain momentum and transform much of the site. Today, drivers entering Coralville from the east see attractive new hotels and mixed-use development - something that was only a gleam in the eyes of members of the City Council in the 1980s. With continued public and private investment, the City will complete build-out of the site's master plan in the coming two decades, and reap the benefits for decades into the future.