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Is the UI’s location plan for Hancher and the School of Music a good one?

BY DI EDITORIAL STAFF | JANUARY 18, 2010 7:30 AM

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YES

Although there are definite strengths to locating Hancher Auditorium downtown, the UI’s recently unveiled location plan for Hancher and the School of Music is satisfactory.

Under the proposal — which officials will present to the state Board of Regents on Feb. 4 — the School of Music will be constructed downtown, and Hancher will remain on the West Campus.

Officials say the proposed Hancher location is around 7 feet higher than the water level during the flood of 2008.

Sure, locating Hancher downtown could generate more foot traffic and could possibly bring in more revenue for local businesses and restaurants. Dinner and a show would be that much more convenient. A downtown location could also boost the city’s already thriving cultural community. It could act as the UI’s staple in Iowa City’s art scene.

But the problems that would come with building Hancher downtown outweigh the benefits. Finding a place to park is already a nightmare; this would make it a night terror. Offering a shuttle service from remote parking lots could be a viable option, but that would ruin the idea of allowing patrons the freedom to enjoy the rest of the city after a performance.

In its current location, Hancher is not forgotten. It is the most important piece in the puzzle that is Iowa City’s art and music community.

UI School of Music faculty and students have expressed their desire to have their buildings closer to the center of campus. Administrators listened and granted their wish, for which I commend them.

Not only would the downtown location be more accessible for music students especially, but it would bring UI music students into the centralized campus community.

— by Chris Clark

NO

Splitting Hancher Auditorium and the School of Music seemingly appeases both sides, but it fails to recognize the advantages of moving Hancher downtown. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has pledged to cover 90 percent of the cost of rebuilding the facility, making a move downtown easier on the university’s pocketbook. University community members have to be excited that after two years of fighting and bickering over this issue, it is finally settled.

Nevertheless, I still feel relocating Hancher downtown would provide a significant boost to the city’s economic landscape. As the Civic Center in Des Moines demonstrates, constructing a performance center downtown can spark commerce. Shops and restaurants benefit from its proximity, attracting customers to shop, dine, and enjoy a performance all in a few blocks.

Relocating the School of Music downtown would make it easier for students to continue their education, but it would not carry the same weight as positioning Hancher right next to it. In order for the university to be efficient, both facilities must be connected.

Those against moving Hancher to downtown Iowa City have said the increased flow of traffic would create havoc on performance days, creating congestion that would hinder normal traffic patterns.

This could be solved by offering a shuttle from the old Hancher site to the new facility downtown. It would save customers money by allowing them to park in free lots, as opposed to city parking ramps.

The university was obviously scared about the prospect of using eminent domain to obtain the land near Burlington Street to build Hancher. I understand that concern, and in the past, the Editorial Board has been against such actions. If the commercial property owners and the university had worked together to propose an equitable solution, however, both sides could have come out with smiles on their faces.

— by Michael Davis


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