Disinformation is prevalent on development project for Carver Corner in Muscatine

The 7.4 acres owned by the City of Muscatine known at “Carver Corner” is the subject of development proposals currently being reviewed by a committee of individuals from both the private and public sectors.

MUSCATINE, Iowa – A recent post on social media concerning the proposed redevelopment of the area known as “Carver Corner” has spurred a tremendous amount of discussion. However, the post has more disinformation than actual facts.

For the past seven years or more, staff from the City of Muscatine and various outside consultants have been working on ideas of how to revitalize “Carver Corner” along with the Mississippi Drive corridor and the Grandview Avenue corridor. And with Mississippi Drive done and Grandview on tap for 2020-21, the final piece of the puzzle is what to do with the city-owned property located at “Carver Corner”.

The advice of outside consultants, and not from city staff as indicated in the social media post, was that the traffic pattern at the “Carver Corner” intersection be left out of the Mississippi Drive and Grandview Avenue projects until a suitable developer could be found. The intersection could then be blended into the development design and serve as a catalyst for future economic growth along Business 61.

In 2018, the Community Development staff began to gather information that would form the Request for Proposals (RFP) on development of the seven-acre “Carver Corner” site. During the April 11, 2019, in-depth City Council meeting, an overview of the RFP was presented by Community Development Director Jodi Royal-Goodwin.

“It has taken the City over 20 years to acquire all the pieces of property in this area,” Royal-Goodwin told the Council. “The main goal is to secure a developer who would provide Muscatine with an appealing and economically beneficial gateway from the south end to downtown.”

The final version of the Carver Corner RFP was completed in early June and distributed to over 60 local and regional development individuals and companies. The release of the RFP was also publicized and made available on the City of Muscatine web site for anyone to download, complete, and submit should they desire.

“The City did email the RFP to a list of local and regional developers but also made the RFP available to anyone who was interested on the City web site,” Kevin Jenison, Communications Manager for the City, said. “We also have a notification system called “Notify Me” that we use whenever notices for bids or RFP’s are published by the City. Any local developer or contractor has the option of receiving these notices or visiting our web site to download the bid packages.”

At no time was anyone denied access to the RFP package or prevented from submitting a proposal.

Proposals were due in the Finance Department at Muscatine City Hall on August 14 but before that deadline, a pre-proposal meeting was held on July 30 in the Muscatine City Council chambers. Representatives from several local developers, representatives of the Peace Park initiative, and representatives from regional developers were in attendance along with a number of other interested individuals. All had copies of the RFP in their possession. Those in attendance were reminded of the deadline to submit proposals, all proposals would be considered and reviewed, and the top proposals presented to the City Council for their consideration.

The process to determine the viability of all proposals received is currently ongoing with a committee assigned to review the proposals, check references, and determine which proposals to move forward in the process. Once that is complete, the City will ask the Council’s permission to enter into a development agreement with the potential developer that will iron out details of the project.

City policy does not permit the release of any information on project bids until that project is presented to the Muscatine City Council, and then only the presented bids are made public. The “Carver Corner” project will be presented at a future in-depth council meeting with details made public before the presentation so that the public may provide input on the proposal.

The final decision on whether to accept a proposal or reject all proposals and start over is up to the members of the City Council and not up to any member of City staff.

One of the arguments pushed by the social media post was that the development would block views of the river from drivers on the Mississippi Drive-Grandview Avenue corridor. However, most views are area already blocked by a 27-foot tall levee (almost as tall as a three-story building). A preliminary design of the actual structures to be built will be part of the presentation at the City Council in-depth session.

Another argument suggested by the social media post was that the potential for a developer who is not local to let the development deteriorate without any accountability is high. The City of Muscatine holds local and non-local developers equally responsible for their properties and offers programs to assist with redevelopment or remodeling of structures currently in existence.

“As a gateway between the south end and the downtown, this property will have a high impact on the economy of Muscatine,” Gregg Mandsager, City Administrator said. “I am sure that the City Council will put a high value on the ability of any developer to maintain the property as promised in the development agreement, and will not choose a project that does not meet the standards Muscatine residents expect.”

The potential for millions of tax dollars that could be added annually to the City budget is also an incentive is ensure the viability of the developer and of the project. Those added funds could be used to repair city infrastructure, enhance neighborhoods, or be used to building owners to rehabilitate their properties to further enhance economic development.

Disinformation used in social media has the potential to hinder any project that could be an economic benefit to the City of Muscatine. Therefore, the City asks residents to allow the committee to do its work free of responses to disinformation, let the project speak for itself, and let the City Council decide whether to pursue this course or not.

One Reply to “Disinformation is prevalent on development project for Carver Corner in Muscatine”

  1. Since I initiated the conversation about Carver Corner, I feel I must respond to this piece.
    1. At the informational meeting I posed the question to Jody Royal-Goodwin about who came up with the concept. Her reply did not include years of consultation. She said City staff and when I asked for more information, she said 4 or 5 City staff. There was no outreach to the public.
    2. I’d be very interested in knowing who the “over 60 local and regional development individuals and companies. We own one of the largest development companies in town and received nothing on this. We found it on our own on the web site.
    3. I said nothing about being denied access to the RFP or being unable to submit a proposal.
    4. You must have been at a different meeting than I was on August 14. There were not several individuals or developers or other interested people at that meeting. It was basically representatives from the firm who submitted a proposal and the Peace Park folks.
    5. You mention a committee that is reviewing the proposals. How was this committee put together? There was only one proposal submitted via the completion of the RFP documents.. The only other “proposal” was from the Peace Park Advisory Board and it provided information as well as why the RFP document was not completed.
    6. “City policy does not permit the release of any information on project bids until that project is presented to the Muscatine City Council, and then only the presented bids are made public”. If that is the case, why does the RFP document make the following statement? “After the deadline for submissions of proposals, the contents of the proposals will be placed in the public domain and open for inspection by the public. Trade secrets or proprietary information that are recognized as such and are protected by law may be clearly withheld if identified as such in the proposal.”
    7. When I questioned the interest an out-of-town developer would have in the development in the future, I did not talk about physical maintenance and appearance issues. I tried to make it clear that properties, especially those that are mixed use, must be kept current. That means remodeling/upgrading residential units as tastes and materials change. It means analyzing if the commercial spaces are still viable or if markets have changed and people are demanding other uses. Take a look around town at older commercial strip malls and you can see good examples of this. In fact, there is a nearly vacant strip mall within a stones throw from Carver Corner. Yet the RFP called for more commercial. We know exactly how difficult it is to keep downtown commercial spaces full. And Carver Corner isn’t even connected to the downtown for any leveraging ability.
    8. I find the final paragraph highly offensive. Essentially you have said it doesn’t matter what the citizens of Muscatine want. The City knows best. The community should have been made aware of this in a VERY transparent way early in the process. Most people don’t have the time to try to find such things as RFPs on the City web site. And just because it was part of a City Council meeting does NOT mean the majority of the citizens saw that particular meeting. My intention was to start a conversation about best use of the last developable piece of property to complete our beautiful riverfront. If people think 4 or 5 apartment buildings clustered in a circle with more struggling commercial space, then so be it. But I do not believe there has been an open, honest exchange of ideas on such a crucial development. We simply must take a longer view than the next 10 to 20 years and envision much bigger ideas and plans for our city.

    I consider this response part of the public conversation.
    Ann Meeker

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