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Point/Counterpoint: Where should the UI build Hancher?

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | OCTOBER 14, 2009 7:20 AM

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Downtown location would help economy, culture of Iowa City

On Monday, about 300 people filed into Macbride Auditorium to discuss the pinnacle issue of the flood recovery effort: where the UI should rebuild the Hancher/Voxman/Clapp complex.

The three options include building along the Iowa River on the West Side of campus, constructing the new complex near downtown south of Burlington Street, or splitting the complex between downtown and the river location.

Mulling each option for construction raises several pros and cons. The key decision should be based on the economic, cultural, and student benefits of the location.

Rebuilding the Hancher complex downtown would provide the greatest advantages to the Iowa City community.

At a rebuilding cost estimated between $250 million and $270 million, the recovery effort will be lofty no matter the decision. Luckily, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will foot 90 percent of the bill.

Moving the complex just south of Burlington Street would place the cultural epicenter of the UI in a precise downtown location accessible to all residents while also increasing the economic viability of local shops and restaurants. New businesses would have the ability to flourish, while struggling ones could receive a charge.

And for those who argue the only “culture” in Iowa City is the culture of binge drinking, there is no better opportunity to increase the admiration of arts on our campus than relocating the arts complex downtown.

It is understandable that the main objection to the downtown option is the price tag. But critics need to think into the future. There is no doubt acquiring downtown land for a new Hancher complex would be expensive; yet, over the years, the potential for bringing money into the local economy and the practicality of utilizing the complex as a recruitment tool for arts students could be tremendous.

— by Michael Dale-Stein



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Avert displacing students, parking headaches: build on the West Side

Say goodbye to Pentacrest Apartments.

Any construction on what the UI has labeled the “East site” — its proposed location near downtown to build the Voxman/Clapp/Hancher complex — would involve purchasing and demolishing the apartment complex.

The Pentacrest Apartments are home to many students and nonstudents alike and pays approximately $475,000 a year in taxes to local governments, said Josh Schamberger, the president of the Iowa City/Coralville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. If the UI were to purchase and build on that land, the city would be lose a significant amount of revenue. The move would also displace the complex’s residents. Where would they go? Iowa City is already a hard place to find a residence, even without demolishing a major apartment complex.

Schamberger says major developers, such as the Moen Group, are ready to build high-rise towers with condominiums should the UI decide to build at the East site, but there’s no guarantee they’d be able to finish. Even if they do finish, it’s doubtful displaced students and other residents would be able to afford to live in these condos — they’re tailored for a wealthier clientele, if the condos downtown are any indication.

There’s also a matter of traffic and parking. The West site would likely include available parking at no extra charge as the previous location did. Hancher/Voxman/Clapp attendees would have to seek available parking around the city and more than likely pay extra fees to park there if the UI builds downtown. The extra volume of people paying to park would drive up already high parking rates downtown.

Iowa City is not a big city. The West site is not that far away. The new location would be close to the Levitt Center and the Cambus system, and the UI already owns the land. We should stop cramming everything we can into downtown.

— by Justin Sugg


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