Hancher plan awaits regents


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After months of discussion, UI officials now advocate separating Hancher and the School of Music.

Officials hope to split the two, rebuilding Hancher on the West Campus and relocating the music school’s facility downtown.

The state Board of Regents will vote on the proposal Feb. 4. Officials do not foresee any additional cost associated with splitting the facilities.

“People are excited about the fact that after a long period of research and talking to a lot of different people, we are proceeding ahead and making progress,” said Hancher Executive Director Charles Swanson.

If approved, Hancher would be built on university-owned property north and west of the building’s current location.

Swanson said remaining west of the river will meet the auditorium’s event-specific needs, including parking and transportation.

For the music school, officials are interested in downtown property — currently occupied by two banks — located at the intersection of Burlington and Clinton Streets.

Kristin Thelander, the director of planning for the School of Music, said she is slightly concerned about whether the downtown property is large enough. But being closer to campus would make it easier for music students — who often carry instruments — to get to class, she noted.

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Thelander also said proximity to downtown could increase the music school’s visibility, promoting campuswide interaction and non-major participation in lessons and classes. Music-school students want the facility located downtown, she aid.

Regent Robert Downer said he has “great confidence” in officials who proposed the plans, but he wasn’t sure if campus exposure had been a problem for the music school.

“I have not viewed any parts of the UI campus as being particularly isolated,” he said. “It’s certainly not geographically a large, spread-out campus.”

Officials said negotiations with the businesses have been positive so far. But if officials can’t reach an agreement with the four landowners, the School of Music could be placed near Hancher, said Rod Lehnertz, Facilities Management’s director of planning, design, and construction.

UI President Sally Mason said they hope to break ground within the next 18 months if regents approve the plans.

Though Swanson realizes the regents’ vote is a major step of the process, he said Hancher officials are excited about moving forward.

“We have a lot of hard work ahead of us, but it’s really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and will serve generations and generations to come,” Swanson said.

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