The Johnston City Council this month approved spending $2.4 million to buy 32.2 acres (map below) at 5055 Merle Hay Road.

The land is owned by Metro Lodging LC, located in Ankeny, and is valued at $1.4 million, according to the Polk County assessor. The North End Diner and a hotel had been located on the land. Both have been demolished.

The parcel is part of a 123-acre area that Johnston officials plan to development into the Merle Hay Road Gateway Area. The Gateway is along both sides of Merle Hay Road and would eventually include recreational developments, hotels, a mix of housing types, restaurants and other commercial nodes.

Development of the proposed Ignit Sports and Fitness Center is planned west of Merle Hay Road at Johnston Drive. A hotel and kayak launch are proposed east of Merle Hay Road on the land the council approved purchasing.

According to information provided to the council, 10.2 acres can be developed; 22 acres are wooded and mostly undevelopable. The city would use bond proceeds from the East Central Urban Renewal Area to pay for the property.

The city, in the future, would resell a portion of the 10.2 acres to a developer, according to the city document. In addition, a kayak launch could be constructed on the south portion of the developable property.

The wooded portion of the property, which hugs Beaver Creek, would be used for passive recreation uses, according to the city document.

The land purchase is expected to be finalized by mid-December.