Cost of arts campus flood recovery jumps by millions

BY ARIANA WITT | APRIL 29, 2011 7:20 AM

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AMES — Replacing the University of Iowa's flood-damaged arts facilities is going to be more expensive than initially planned, officials told the state Board of Regents on Thursday.

Officials said at the regents meeting in Ames they are now projecting the total cost of three major Arts Campus flood projects — a new Hancher Auditorium, a new music building, and studio-arts building — to be $387 million, $55 million more than the original estimate of $332 million.

But on Thursday, costs did not seem to concern regents as much as time.

Regent President David Miles said he shares some of the public frustrations about the lengthy process of the flood projects.

"We're mindful of how long it's taking, and we need to move this process along," he said. "We can only operate on a temporary basis for so long. It's not only finalizing the money, and we indeed are going to have the funding to move forward, but once you do that, it takes time to put together a plan, and it takes time to construct these buildings. I think there's a real desire onthe part of this board to move this process along."

UI Senior Vice President of Finance Doug True told the regents the new studio-arts facility will total nearly $78 million, the new music building will cost $148 million, and Hancher Auditorium's price tag will ring in at $161 million.

Originally, officials estimated the costs of the new auditorium and music facility to be $272 million and the cost of a new studio-arts facility to be $60 million.

True said officials expect the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reimburse the university for up to 90 percent of the building costs that officials finalized on April 7. In addition to the 10 percent of the $387 million, the UI will also need to pay $142 million in "aspirational costs" — which are largely improvements on the previous facilities.

"For these three projects, we sort of put ourselves in a box, and shut the door, and said about two months ago we were going to come up with some very good estimates of cost," True said. "We're going to transmit that to the state and to [FEMA] to make sure we can really accelerate these projects in terms of FEMA's commitment to us."

Regent Jack Evans said he wished the projects luck but said he couldn't help but mention growing concerns about the flood work.

"There are a lot of questions that are asked of us," he said. "We're coming up on three years … There's a lot of people watching, and I think I'd be remiss if I didn't relay that to you because I think that's a genuine feeling out there from the state."

But it's important to remember extensive building projects take time, said Derek Hill, the newly appointed Iowa Homeland Security officer.

"One of the very important things we need to take a look at and we need to be mindful of, is that the projects the UI is working on are extremely complicated projects," he said. "They've really driven home to me that the design and the plan and the engineering work for any one of these buildings is going to take 12 months or longer to get it put down on paper."

Flood-recovery costs at the UI will likely total more then $750 million, according to estimates.
Elizabeth Schlegel, the Hancher house manager, said it's important to look at the significance of Hancher to the UI.

"I think any department probably doesn't like to hear things are going to increase," she said. "But I think Hancher is a very important part of campus. Although it may be more expensive, it is very important to have it back."

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