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New Hancher groundbreaking postponed

BY MATT STARNS | SEPTEMBER 25, 2012 6:30 AM

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Ground will not be broken as scheduled on Oct. 19 for the new Hancher, but officials say the building’s construction schedule and projected opening will not be affected.

“A groundbreaking is largely symbolic,” Hancher Executive Director Chuck Swanson said. “[Postponing] it doesn’t mean things aren’t happening.”

University of Iowa spokesman Tom Moore said he couldn’t comment on the reasons the ceremony was postponed. He said there has not been a new date set for the groundbreaking ceremony, but the construction timeline will not be affected by the delay.

Swanson said the building’s design development is complete — a major step in the construction process.

“The design that they’ve come up with is stunning,” he said. “It’s just so awesome, not only of an iconic nature but also very functional.”

Moore said the building — designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, a New Haven, Conn.-based firm — is still expected to be “substantially completed” by December 2015, the same time frame presented to the state Board of Regents earlier this month.

The new building will be located near the Levitt Center on Park Road.

“I feel like we’re making great progress,” Swanson said. “We’re anxious for a new place, but building a performing-arts center is a complex task, and it does take time.”

The current Hancher building should be demolished this year, The Daily Iowan has previously reported.

“Old Hancher Auditorium should come down this year,” UI President Sally Mason said during an interview with the DI in June. “It will be a slow process, it has to come down very carefully, there’s a lot of asbestos in that building, so we have to be very careful about how we take that building down. It won’t be as simple as just blowing it up and hauling it away.”

Old Hancher was severely damaged in the 2008 flood. Swanson said there was some concern this year after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General audited the Federal Emergency Management Administration Region VII’s decision to provide funds to replace  — instead of repair — three buildings on the UI campus: Hancher, Voxman Music Building, and the old Art Building.

Swanson said the building’s groundbreaking ceremony is being planned in conjunction with the It Gets Better Project, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit dedicated to helping lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youths overcome bullying. He said the ceremony will be combined with a weeklong series of events, including the début of a production by six members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, which will première in Iowa City.

Swanson said local church, high school, and college choir members are encouraged to become a part of the production. He said one of the goals of this series is to “use the arts as a way to respond to the difficult issue of bullying.”

“We’re really trying to make as much of an impact with this project as we always do,” Swanson said.


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