September 30, 2013 12:00 pm Editorial – Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier
That’s why proponents of the Cedar Valley TechWorks should not lose heart.
TechWorks, the agri-industrial research complex being developed on portions of John Deere’s former Westfield Avenue facilities, is now 10 years in the making. It was jointly proposed in 2003 by then-University of Northern Iowa president Robert Koob and Barry Shaffter, then general manager of Deere’s Waterloo operations.
Part of the project appears to have hit what proponents call a financial “speed bump.” An application for historic designation through the U.S. National Parks Service has been turned down. At stake is some $10 million in historic preservation tax credits toward the $50 million project.
Proponents are forging ahead.
Bryce Henderson, chief financial officer and chief operating officer with Davenport-based Financial District Properties, the project’s developer, said, “This decision was largely subjective, and we’re going back next week to present our case again,” he said last week.
Darn right. With all due respect to the Park Service, we don’t understand how preserving and enhancing a complex that was the industrial heart of Waterloo for most of the 20th century cannot have historic significance. We areapproaching the 100th anniversary of John Deere’s entry into Waterloo with the purchase of the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Co. in 1918, which was located on that very spot.
Henderson said the project will continue, and that there are backup financing plans. “You never go into a redevelopment project like this without a Plan A, Plan B, Plan C and Plan D,” he said.
Developers have not given up on securing the historic designation for the Tech 2 building, which is scheduled to open in the winter of 2014 with a Radisson business-class hotel with a ground-floor restaurant, John Deere training facility, showroom and office space and a location for education programs of Hawkeye Community College.
“Part of our discussion was how to get started on the west end of the campus around the museum (Deere Tractor and Engine Museum, now under construction) and Tech 1 while we’re still putting all the pieces together for the Green project,” said Steve Dust, president and CEO of TechWorks. “It was important to understand that we continue to move ahead, even though this is a very important part of the project.”
We appreciate and applaud that undaunted approach. We would ask Park Service officials to consider the alternative. Longtime Cedar Valley residents have seen many industrial buildings fall victim to the wrecking ball, which subsequently resulted in aesthetic eyesores and environmental cleanup headaches.
The TechWorks project is a responsible, systematic re-use of a major industrial site in this city, preserving the site’s heritage with a look to future technologies. That’s a plan worth pursuing, and fighting for.