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CBJ Report: AAA Mechanical sells Iowa River Landing property for arena project

A rendering of a proposed arena to be built in the Iowa River Landing in Coralville.

AAA Mechanical sells IRL property for arena project

A $1.7 million deal to buy AAA Mechanical's property at 832 Quarry Road will help pave the way for the Iowa Arena in Coralville's Iowa River Landing, along with redevelopment of the Antique Car Museum of Iowa site and AAA's relocation to North Liberty.

Under an agreement approved by the Coralville City Council on Tuesday, the deal will be completed in two phases to separately accommodate the immediate land needs of the arena project and the redevelopment of the museum site. AAA Mechanical will be able to stay temporarily in the front part of the building.

The city will pay half of the $1.7 million price and $250,000 in upfront costs for the business relocation now, needing only one-third of the property for the arena project. The rest of the $1.7 million price and remaining relocation expenses will be paid at the end of the agreement in December 2019, when the Antique Car Museum will have relocated to its new site. The city will then be able to combine the remaining two-thirds of the AAA Mechanical site with the museum site into one redevelopment parcel.

AAA Mechanical, established in 1964, is a family-owned, full-service mechanical contractor that designs, installs and maintains plumbing, heating, air conditioning and refrigeration systems in commercial and industrial facilities. Owners James and Gloria Koeppel have owned the property more than 30 years, and the business is now run by daughter Tammy Musser and sons Jim and Jeff.

"It's been a great location," Ms. Musser said.

AAA Mechanical now plans to move to a new location on Stoner Court in North Liberty, southwest of the I-380/Penn Street interchange, she said. Construction on that facility is expected to begin in May, with completion in nine to 12 months.

Emerson's Kingston Quarters project moving forward

A highly visible flood redevelopment site at 346 Second Ave. SW in Cedar Rapids will be getting 12 market-rate town homes this year.

Steve Emerson's Progression LC expects to invest about $4.2 million to develop the two-bedroom, two-bathroom units, which will be directly across from the former Cedar Rapids Public School District administration building, which Mr. Emerson has nearly finished converting into 32 apartments.

The project has already been approved for the state's Brownfields/Grayfields tax credit program. The city council approved the first reading Tuesday of an ordinance to provide tax increment financing (TIF) assistance for the project under the city's Urban Housing Economic Development Program, and to begin negotiations on a development agreement with Mr. Emerson for the city land.

Under the TIF program, the developer will pay an estimated $711,000 in property taxes paid over its first 10 years, and be reimbursed about $590,000.

Council Member Ann Poe, who leads the city's design review committee, praised the project's "360-degree design" and its use of varied facades to add visual interest. She said the property "will get a lot of notice" because of its prominent location.

Kirkwood, IowaWORKS partner on CNC training

Kirkwood Community College is partnering with IowaWORKS to offer a 16-week training program for computer numerically controlled (CNC) machining to offset the worker shortages of area manufacturers.

According to Elevate Iowa, demand for CNC machinists is expected to grow by 23 percent in the state by 2020. The highly technical career involves the calculation of machine operations and cutting tools, analysis of job orders and writing computer programs.

The immersive, 16-week CNC course includes hands-on training for cutting raw materials using lathe and milling machines. It is accredited by the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS). Training participation includes networking with Barnes Manufacturing Services, Centro Inc. and MSI Mold Builders to learn about jobs and growth possibilities in the Corridor. Upon completion, the hands-on program includes potential interviews for jobs paying between $15-$24 per hour.

"We are seeing a lot of need for CNC machinists in our area," Megan McCarville, IowaWORKS' workforce career consultant, said in a press release. "Kirkwood's short-term training is an amazing first step for a lucrative career. Better yet, IowaWORKS can connect individuals with training tuition assistance opportunities. People should not assume they don't qualify."

Enrollment in the program requires a high school diploma or equivalency. Participants who complete training receive a NIMS certificate that is also the equivalent of nine college-credit hours to apply toward a degree. Kirkwood offers additional diploma and associate degrees in CNC Machining Technology.

Evening classes for CNC machining start Feb. 28, on Kirkwood's main campus in Cedar Rapids. Contact Ms. McCarville at (319) 365-9474, ext. 31186, for more information and tuition assistance opportunities.

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