UI, Coralville to discuss land-use plan for research park

 by Gigi Wood

CORALVILLE – Now that the University of Iowa Hygienic Laboratory is nearly complete, the UI and the city of Coralville will begin working on a land-use plan for the area.

Crews are finishing work on the nearly $38 million hygienic laboratory on the southeast corner of Highway 965 and Oakdale Boulevard, within the UI Research Park.

Jordan Cohen, the UI’s interim vice president of research, will work with Coralville on the plan. He said it is too early in the process to comment on the UI’s plans.

Completion of the hygienic laboratory means the former lab space will be vacant. UI officials have discussed demolishing the building, which is one of many in the 250-acre park.

Kelly Hayworth, Coralville’s city administrator, said the planning process should begin soon and he hopes it will be completed in May, in time for the city to overhaul its zoning code. Councilors discussed zoning code changes at their work session March 9 and determined several ordinances regulating signage, parking and other zoning issues are outdated. Councilors plan to start work on a complete zoning code change this summer.

“We’re going to review the whole code and do all the updating because we just haven’t done it in a long time. We’ve made some small changes here and there but we really need to look at it as one thing,” he said.

The research park will be a part of the zoning code discussion.

“(At the research park) there are some natural boundaries, but we kind of need to think that through, and the other piece of that is, and we haven’t figured that out yet, is how does that all dovetail into this zoning code because there are going to be things that come out of this plan,” he said. “Maybe we will want a completely new zone for the research park, all those are things that will be a result of the planning process with the university.”

A consultant will likely be hired to assist with the land-use planning.

“We want to review and make sure we’re both comfortable with a consultant, first of all, that has experience on both sides, not just on the university side but the community side as well,” Mr. Hayworth said. “And I think one of the first things would be how big of an area do we want to look at, what makes the most sense, what kind of properties impact each other.”

Research park land north of the new hygienic lab along Crosspark Road is owned by the UI but is leased to the research park corporation for private development.

“That’s part of this whole planning process, too, because probably starting a year ago that whole line started becoming fuzzy and it wasn’t any more, ‘This is research park, this is campus.’ There was more of an interest in blending the two together,” he said.

Although a large ravine stretches throughout the southern portion of the research park, it could be considered for development.

“We’ll look at that land all the way down to Interstate 80 and how that is used, and that’s probably more part of a private research park side versus the campus part of it,” Mr. Hayworth said. “That could be a big part of this plan and how does it blend in with the adjacent neighborhoods, the adjacent commercial, all those kinds of pieces. That’s a really valuable piece of property and part of our community that needs to be thought of real carefully, because that looks out right there on to Interstate 80 and could be a signature piece for the research park and the community.”

Other Coralville projects

Coralville will soon begin accepting bids on a multi-million dollar project to improve its wastewater treatment plant. The city has planned the project for about a year and a half and recently received its permit to begin work.

Meanwhile, the city awaits formal approval at the Board of Regents April meeting for the University of Iowa’s proposed $73 million, five-story, 150,000-square-foot medical facility within the Iowa River Landing District on the north side of Ninth Street near the Coralville Marriott.

“Regent approval will trigger us to release the engineer to finalize what the area of grading will be, then that can begin this summer and then that triggers a whole bunch of things,” Mr. Hayworth said, referring to future commercial development in the district. “We didn’t want to go to the next step until we get that official word.”