Two giant pandas would come to live in downtown Des Moines if an Iowa State University architecture professor gets his way. Paul Shao has a vision for the Des Moines waterfront , a panda research center shaped like a bear paw. Shao says pandas are endangered because it’s hard for them to reproduce.

He says females are fertile only one day a year and the lack of nutrients in bamboo means they expend all their energy eating. “Giant panda need to forage a huge area to fill up their tummy,” Shao says. “By the time they are done, they are tired. They don’t have any interest for sex.”

He says agricultural research being done in Iowa may be able to help. Scientists are working on genetically-modified bamboo that would provide pandas with more energy. He says genetic similarities between pigs and pandas make Iowa the perfect place to help the endangered species.

There are currently about 1,600 pandas in the world, none in the Midwest. “There no guarantee that we will get them but I am trying,” he says. “If we succeed in developing this technology that can help the giant panda, chances are that we can get a pair here.”

Shao is moving forward on plans to bring pandas to Iowa. He hopes to get support from local businesses like the Principal Financial Group.