UI seeks regent permission to raze flood-damaged apartments

BY HAYLEY BRUCE | MARCH 04, 2011 7:20 AM

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University of Iowa officials say they will ask the state Board of Regents this month for permission to raze the flood-damaged portion of Hawkeye Court Apartments.

After officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency gave the UI the option to rebuild or demolish the 76 first-floor apartments damaged in the 2008 flood, UI Director of Housing and Dining Von Stange said officials chose to tear them down because of their age and condition.

Officials don’t know yet what they’ll do with the remaining 427 units, but they sent notices to all residents Wednesday saying they could not guarantee leases beyond June 1, 2012. Von Stange said this should give residents ample time to relocate.

“We’re looking at options for replacing the [undamaged] apartments,” Stange said. “We don’t know what we will do at this point in time, but we wanted to give tenants as much notice as possible.”

Janet Brenton, a 24-year-old dental student, said she laughed when she got the notice.

“It’s a little bit frustrating just because I’m getting married this summer,” the Hawkeye Court resident said. “My husband will move in with me, and it was the cheapest apartment situation that we could find that was a reasonable size.”

But Brenton said she and her husband will wait it out until they’re forced to leave.

“We figure it would be a pain to have to move later and find another place, but with the money we would save in the time being, it would be worth it,” she said, noting that it would be inconvenient to have to move out while she remains in school.

Most people affected will likely be from the UI.

“Everyone here has something in common,” said apartment manager Helen Baker last year. “They’re all affiliated with the university in some way.”

Though there are no official plans regarding what will happen to the undamaged dwellings, Stange said last year that Hawkeye Court will not exist by 2015.

“We wanted to prepare our tenants to know that we are planning some stuff, and once we find out more information, we will let them know that,” he said. “We can guarantee that housing for one more year but not beyond that.”

The damaged apartments — which sit below the 500-year floodplain — have been uninhabited since the flood.

The other buildings have remained near capacity, typically starting off the year at 98 percent occupancy, Stange said.

Officials have put together an abandonment resolution in order to facilitate the demolition of the apartments, which they will present to the regents on March 23. Stange said he expects it to be approved.

“I would assume they are going to approve [the demolition],” he said. “We haven’t had anyone in there during that time, and if FEMA pays for the demolition, it would be logical that a pass would take place.”

The UI also still needs final approval from FEMA.

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