UI planning Research Park's future - Officials begin developing 25-year plan, including discussing infrastructure, buildings, type of tenants

With new tenants ranging from private biomedical companies to University of Iowa ventures, officials at the University of Iowa Research Park are beginning to plan for long-term growth in the park.

Jordan Cohen, vice president for research and economic development at UI, said the park’s board of managers, along with UI officials and representatives from North Liberty and Coralville, have begun the preliminary stages of creating a quarter-century plan for the growing area, formerly known as the Oakdale Research Park.

“So our thinking is it’s time to do some very serious planning about what the park should look like, about what kinds of tenants we should try to attract at the park, even about what size buildings we should build rather than necessarily just kind of letting it grow up one building at a time,” Cohen said. “It’s exciting and it’s early, but it’s moving.”

While the research park, located at Highway 965 and Oakdale Boulevard, has existed since the late 1980s, Cohen said a recent spur of development has been noticed in the last three years.

“There’s no question it’s a very exciting time for the research park and I can’t wait to see it in five to 10 years as the planning starts to evolve,” Cohen said. “It’s a great setting.”

The first step in adding to the park is laying the infrastructure — from roads and trails to sewer and water mains and landscaping design. Roadways to and from future facilities and residential areas will be vital for managing growing traffic flow, Cohen said.

North Liberty city administrator Ryan Heiar said organizing streets and housing ahead of time is equally important to the nearby communities, where research park employees likely will live.

“It’s extremely important to make sure a plan is in place to accommodate the number of potential jobs that could be created here and additionally to plan for the housing needs for the folks that will be working here,” Heiar said, adding that planning along Highway 965 as far north as Penn Street will be critical.

The phase after infrastructure installation will involve targeting which industries would fit best in the park, which boasts a significant presence in the biomedical sector, one of the latest additions being the BioVentures Center, which incubates prospective new businesses, about three years ago, and the health care revenue cycle management company MediRevv, which is planned to open this fall.

The final stage would be finalizing a long-term development and marketing plan, Cohen said, adding that a final proposal would require approval from the Iowa state Board of Regents.

Along with North Liberty, Coralville officials also have determined the park to be a valuable partner.

Coralville city administrator Kelly Hayworth said the relationship between Coralville and the research park has benefited both parties, and Coralville has been directly involved with the installation of streets, sewers and public water system.

“The park has been an excellent partner for Coralville,” Hayworth said. “There’s a significant number of employees that work there and they provide great amenities for us.”

Hayworth also noted that as the park grows, other amenities associated with large research parks will continue to develop, including fitness centers, daycare facilities and eateries — many of which already are sprouting up on the boundaries of the park.

Reach Mitchell Schmidt at maschmidt@press-citizen.com or at 887-5402.