UIHC expansion still on hold

BY EMILY BUSSE | MARCH 24, 2010 7:30 AM

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University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics officials said they are not ready to present the proposed Iowa River Landing expansion project at today’s state Board of Regents meeting.

After UIHC officials presented plans at last month’s meeting, the regents asked them to continue planning and return this month with “everything tied down,” said Regent Robert Downer.

“We had thought that everything was going to be in shape for that meeting this time, and unfortunately, that’s not the case,” he said.

Jean Robillard, the UI vice president for Medical Affairs, said UIHC officials had also hoped to go ahead with discussing the clinical care services branch they’re looking to open in Coralville today.

“We’re not ready to do this. The city is not ready to do this,” he said. “We thought we would be able to do this in March, but we’re not the only one controlling this.”

Legal agreements concerning parking and land grade remain to be completed — a reason for the delay — but Robillard said he hopes they will be taken care of by the regents’ meeting in late April.

The cost of the project has not be released.

Coralville City Administrator Kelly Hayworth said that while some projects take two months to negotiate, preparations for more complex undertakings such as the clinic can last over a year.

“It’s a very complicated project with a combination of parking and building … and all the things that are happening,” he said.

Downer said officials want to take into account that the last time the university was a part of an overall development was in the 1960s during the Iowa City urban-renewal project.

He also called on UI officials to complete plans to purchase a nearby site that would be available for future expansion.

While he said the regents may mention clinic plans briefly during the five minutes allotted in Thursday’s telephonic meeting, hospital officials will mainly focus on their monthly financial report.

Robillard said he hopes the in-person April regents’ meeting will be a better opportunity to present plans, and Downer thinks the goal to start building in the fall and complete the clinic in 2012 is “still viable.”

The project calls for around 20 acres and six new buildings, something that will ultimately be a win-win situation, according to both UIHC and Coralville officials.

The clinic should aid overcrowding by moving 300,000 of the 850,000 hospital visits to the clinic, Robillard said. And Hayworth said businesses such as restaurants and hotels adjacent to the clinic will also benefit.

“It’s a perfect example of where the two can be benefited,” he said.

Once the legal documents are completed and future expansion sites are ready, Downer said, the Iowa River Landing project should be ready to go.

“We’re just in the process of getting all those things tied down,” he said. “Things with major development of this nature just take time, unfortunately.”

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