An Iowa City firm has been selected to prepare a master concept plan for the Loess Hills Archaeological Interpretive Center to be built at Glenwood. The firm, Armadillo Arts, was among eight firms that sought the job.

The final decision to offer the $46,500 contract to Armadillo Arts was made by the interpretive center’s board of directors at a July 16 meeting. The firm is to present the completed plan to the board on or before November 1.

“This is a major step in development of the center. Armadillo will furnish us with a package that will include floor plan drawings, color rendering of what the center’s exterior might look like, along with suggestions for landscaping and signage,” said Rob Simmon of rural Glenwood, chairman of the board’s fundraising committee.

These things are essential when we approach foundations, corporations, businesses, individuals and other prospective donor sources for the building funds,” said Simmon, who prepared and continually updated a powerpoint presentation on the planned center which he has presented to nearly 20 groups.

The board seeks to construct the center on a 12-acre tract at the intersection of Highway 34 and Levi Road on the edge of 907-acre state preserve. The preserve was established in 2009 to stop further harm to the known sites of earth lodges used by Native Americans between 1250 A.D. and 1400 A.D. Archaeological surveys have determined that beneath the surface of the preserve there lies a vast number of earth lodge home sites. The center would utilize displays, interactive displays, theater presentations and other up-to-date methods of telling the story of the Native Americans referred to by archaeologists as the Glenwood Culture.

The center is envisioned as not only a highly significant tourist attraction but also as a major location for on-going research by archaeologists who will be working at the preserve and as a resource facility for high school, college and university programs. A number of such institutes have already shown interest.

The center board, which has reviewed similar centers in the Midwest, is currently estimating the construction cost at about $7 million. Without a master concept plan in hand the board has, to date, gathered over $56,000 in donations, Simmon said.

“With a master plan concept we can show prospective donors what the building might look like and what features will be included. All of this is very important,” said Simmon. He noted that the hiring of architects and engineers to design the center in full detail and draw up construction plans will come after funding has been assured

Wayne Phipps says his step down from the presidency of Loess Hills Archaeological Interpretive Center board of directors will give him more time to concentrate on others matter important to development of the planned center.

Phipps presented his resignation letter to the board at its meeting last week. He maintains his board membership. Vice-president Jean Jaskierny has taken over the board leadership role for the time being.

“We are entering a critical period, and, at the board’s direction, I want to devote my energies toward coordinating progress in several areas,” Phipps.

Phipps has been the board’s liaison with several state agencies that have interest in the center project. He is a member of the Iowa Preserves Board, which has overall control of the preserve, and he is also a member of the Mills County Conservation Board. The state preserves board has delegated management of the preserve to the county conservation board.

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