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UI looks to cut costs on new dorm

BY ALLIE WRIGHT | SEPTEMBER 23, 2011 7:20 AM

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University of Iowa officials are working on driving down the cost of a new residence hall after its price tag jumped twice in the last year.

The state Board of Regents approved $54 million for the residence hall Tuesday, part of $323.8 million for capital improvements on campus.

But in September 2010, The Daily Iowan reported the cost of the new residence hall would be between $20 million and $32 million. Then, in April, officials told regents the cost of phase one of the project was $42 million, with an expectation that additional revenue would be needed to support the project.

Officials are now saying the construction will cost less than $50 million, and it is part of a plan to provide more housing to better accommodate the increasing class sizes. Construction is expected to begin in early 2013.

Located north of Grand Avenue near Hillcrest, the residence hall will accommodate approximately 450 students, said Tom Rocklin, the UI vice president for Student Life.

"We have a commitment to house every first-year student who wants on-campus housing," Rocklin said. Additionally, UI officials have a goal to provide more housing options for upperclassmen, he said.

The original plan of the building was a wider space, but the plans changed to a taller building, which will be less expensive because it would take up less land, said Ken Stirm, an architect from Rohrbach Associates in Iowa City who is leading the design of the project. The firm has worked with UI housing for more than 15 years, he said, on such projects as the IMU and College of Public Health Building.

Von Stange, the UI assistant vice president for University Housing and Dining, said he hopes to house mostly living-learning communities, but no specific plans for which ones will be included have been decided yet.

And while normal double-bed rooms are less expensive, UI officials are hoping to come up with something more innovative.

"We're trying not to do a traditional residence-hall floor," he said.

But the plans aren't set in stone. Rocklin said officials will reveal the floor plans for the building at the regents' meeting in February.

UI officials initially proposed the construction plan to the regents in April. The expected date of completion was in the fall of 2014.

Rocklin said the delay can be attributed to UI officials' efforts to keep costs down.

Construction on the new residence hall will require the UI to demolish a section of the Quadrangle, which would mean a loss of 47 beds.

More on-campus housing is a need the UI has had for a long time, said the regents in April.

Regent Robert Downer told the DI that he hopes the construction isn't delayed.

"I think these are very exciting plans, and I'm very pleased with them," he said in April. "I would just hate to see the timeline lag on this. I think that's occurred too much already."


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