Phase four of Council Bluffs riverfront development begins

Published: Sep. 17, 2021 at 11:05 AM CDT
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COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (WOWT) - Phase four of the Council Bluffs riverfront project will aim to enhance the local economy and community while also keeping and attracting new residents.

“Our riverfront exists as a place of significance that builds pride and community among residents,” said Council Bluffs Mayor Matt Walsh.

“Phase Four delivers additional opportunities to engage with the riverfront and spur further economic development.”

In 2015, U.S. Census data showed Iowa in the top seven states registering economic losses due to migration. The Census revealed that the Council Bluffs/Omaha-metro area accumulated a loss of around $5.6 billion in wages and salaries due to migration.

Nationwide trends indicate that riverfront developments, much like River’s Edge, reduce the loss of local talent. Based on other states’ outcomes, the River’s Edge development could reduce migrations on both sides of the river by up to 4.6%.

According to the U.S. Census, young adults with college degrees have higher relocation rates than the total population. Approximately one million college-educated 25- to 34-year-olds move across state lines annually. Today’s young adults pursue areas with recreational amenities surrounding rivers and parks.

“Phase Four will immediately impact the quality of life in our community. Each component, from the playground to the pier, provides access to the kinds of activities that greatly benefit health, happiness, and wellbeing,” said Mayor Walsh.

Southwest Iowa Nonprofit for Collective Impact (SINC) is conducting the fundraising and management for River’s Edge Phase Four in partnership with the City of Council Bluffs.

“SINC is an Iowa 501(c)(3) that has been established to form a ‘collective impact’ approach to envision, design, and partner on major transformative projects for Southwest Iowa. These transformational projects involve partnerships with various large non-profits, governmental and non-governmental agencies, and major philanthropists through the region,” said Pete Tulipana, President of SINC.

Tax increases are not part of the new development, phase four is completely funded by private donations raised by SINC. The estimated budget is $50 million with an initial lead gift coming from The Iowa West Foundation in the form of $15 million.

“With our office on the riverfront, we have a front-row seat to the community engaging with the amenities every day, whether it’s taking a picture with the Looking Up sculpture, exercising along the trail, or enjoying a picnic atop the River’s Edge Pavilion. There’s so much more on the horizon with Belle’s Play Garden and other developments. I encourage residents and visitors to come see all that this area of Council Bluffs has to offer,” said Brenda Mainwaring, President and CEO of Iowa West Foundation.

With the private funding of nearly $50 million, Council Bluffs taxpayers have the potential to experience a significant rate of return.

According to The Economic and Fiscal Impact of the Council Bluffs Riverfront Development, a study completed by Goss & Associates for the Mid Iowa Growth Partnership, total City tax collections are estimated to be $57.4 million. During the riverfront’s two-year construction phase, the project can support 1,337 jobs annually and 3,249 jobs annually during the 30-year operation phase, boosting state and local taxes by $131.7 million.

The Council Bluffs community members, back in 2018, helped shape the plans for the River’s Edge development. The project team hosted four public hearings encouraging the public to view project renderings, vote on ideas and programs, and provide feedback. Thus, phase four incorporates many community suggestions including waterfront trails and a children’s play area.

“River’s Edge intends to be a public space that creates a strong sense of pride for the community. It’s a place where people of all ages and abilities can access and enjoy Iowa’s beautiful riverfront,” said Mayor Walsh.

Construction of Belle’s Play Garden, the first amenity of Phase Four, has begun. Belle’s Play Garden features a series of Missouri River-inspired play and educational elements, including a 15-foot-tall pelican play feature with climbing structures, a slide, intimate enclosures, and a lookout perch.

Council Bluffs riverfront project aims to enhance the community and economy while keeping and...
Council Bluffs riverfront project aims to enhance the community and economy while keeping and attracting new residents to the area.(City of Council Bluffs)

The Go Play Initiative, founded by the Knudtson and Davidson families, provided the leadership funding for Belle’s Play Garden alongside Back to the River Inc.

“We are excited for the project to begin the construction phase. It has been so fun to see the play structures being built, and that excitement will only grow as construction gets underway, and then again when families return to the riverfront to play and enjoy this special part of the park,” said Heather Tomasek-Knudtson with The Go Play Initiative.

More information regarding phase four of the River’s Edge development can be found here.

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