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For decades, the city of Robins has been the virtual epitome of a Corridor bedroom community. Incorporated in 1911 and nestled between Hiawatha and Toddville, north of Cedar Rapids, the city’s population has nearly quadrupled in the past three decades, from 955 residents in 1990 to 3,353 in 2020. Yet the growth has been almost exclusively residential, save the Robins Square commercial development north of East Main Street – and even that development faced opposition from neighboring residents before moving ahead. In more recent years, however, city leaders have become increasingly engaged in economic development efforts, forming the Robins Economic Development Initiative (REDI) in 2013 to develop business entities in Robins and promote the city. Robins Mayor Chuck Hinz and economic development director Greg Neumeyer outlined the town’s growth plans at the Cedar Rapids Downtown Rotary Club’s April 4 meeting. Mr. Hinz highlighted some Robins demographics that work in the city’s favor: The city’s residents have a median age of 43.7 years; 86.3% of residents own their own homes; 70.7% of residents are employed as part of the labor force; the city’s median yearly household income is approximately $129,000, earning recognition as the “richest city in Iowa” by 24/7 Wall Street; the median home value is just over $300,000; and the city’s property tax rate is the lowest in the metro area. And while the city encompasses about six square miles, two-thirds of that land remains available for development, Mr. Hinz said. Recognizing the need to broaden the city’s tax base, city leaders launched a task force in late 2019 to address Robins’ future priorities. Dozens of residents participated in public meetings to gather input, and even as the task force’s work came to a virtual halt during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Hinz said no idea was off-limits. “One of the things we said at the very beginning was, ‘We want your ideas. Don’t be concerned about how much it might cost. We’ll worry about that later,’” Mr. Hinz said. “If you’re going to immediately start talking about ‘can we afford this or can we afford that,’ that really stifles creative thinking, so forget about what it’s going to cost. “I will have to say,” he added, chuckling, “that every once in a while, alone in my office, I tend to regret that comment.” That task force produced the city’s Strategic Future Growth Outline (SFGO) to guide development efforts, incorporating four key pillars: Infrastructure; economic development, commercial and residential growth; city services; and community identity, engagement and communications. Under those pillars, leaders formulated short-term, intermediate-term and long-term goals. Groups of seven to 10 residents are engaged in ongoing meetings to develop actionable initiatives on each pillar, Mr. Hinz said. “In the past, as a city, we’ve tended to be reactive,” Mr. Hinz said. “What this strategic growth outline has done is made us become more proactive in terms of what we want to do and how we want to get there.” The $50 million reconstruction of Tower Terrace Road, now underway in earnest and including the development of a new $25 million Interstate 380 interchange, will be one of the keys to the city’s future, Mr. Hinz said. In conjunction with the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), the four cities in the metro area are pursuing a $25 million grant from federal transportation officials to help fund the project – the third time such a grant has been sought. Mr. Neumeyer said a cost-benefit analysis of the Tower Terrace/I-380 interchange, conducted as part of the grant application, showed that every dollar invested in the project would return $11 in economic benefits. He also noted a series of development projects already underway in and around Robins – commercial developments on County Home Road near the Epic Event Center and Center Point Road near Midway; residential developments between Center Point Road and I-380, as well as between Center Point Road and Quass Road; and several other projects in the area. Robins has a project of its own in the works. Dubbed Robins Landing, the mixed-use development is planned at Tower Terrace Road near the Cedar Valley Nature Trail. The project, encompassing 400 acres, is being envisioned as a “live-work-play” area, including retail and commercial developments, a city park, townhomes and single-family homes. While specifics aren’t yet available as the development awaits review by planning and zoning officials and the Robins City Council, Mr. Neumeyer said officials hope Robins Landing will help lead a progressive future for the city. “One of the things we’ve talked about is that we don’t have a lot of housing for younger families,” he said. “Another demographic we’ve missed out on is people that live in Robins and want to downsize. We just haven’t had those kinds of units. So if we can create some units for people who already live in Robins to downsize, then we can have new families moving into the existing houses. It should really create some growth for Robins. It’s an exciting time. You’ll see more coming up.”