UI officials 'excited' for IMU reconstruction, Regent 'disappointed' with delays

BY ERIC CLARK | OCTOBER 15, 2012 6:30 AM

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While many University of Iowa officials have voiced their excitement about the reconstruction of the IMU ground floor, one regent is skeptical about the process.

The cost of fully repairing and protecting the IMU from future flooding was estimated to cost $31 million by UI Dean of Students David Grady.

“Many students have not experienced a full functional IMU,” he wrote in an email. “We are anxious to get the construction started so that the ground floor can be reopened in the spring of 2015.”

However, Regent Robert Downer said he was confused about where the funding for the reconstruction project would come from.

“I am not totally certain as to where the funding is,” he said. “The whole FEMA situation really convoluted the whole process.”

The UI and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have been somewhat at odds over the necessary money needed to rebuild and protect UI buildings from flood damage.

In September 2011, the UI pushed the IMU basement completion date to August 2014, because of delays with FEMA funding. FEMA did not provide any reason for the postponement.

In April, UI officials announced the project would be pushed back again, to December 2014. In June, the project was pushed back, a third time, to February 2015.

Downer referenced the repairs and plans for the Hancher replacement, Art Building West renovations, and a new music building as locations that were set in motion earlier than the IMU.

“Frankly, [the IMU] is one we haven’t discussed all that much,” he said. “I’m not quite sure how this one fits in.”

Downer said he thought UI officials have done a great job in handling the situation overall, but the funding as a whole has not gone smoothly. He said he wasn’t sure if students should expect more delays in the restoration project.

“The whole situation is a huge disappointment,” Downer said.

Grady said the UI’s architects and engineers involved in the project are currently in the process of completing construction documents. Once the documents are completed and reviewed, the project will be put up for bid. While the completion of these documents is nearing a close, a specific date of completion was not available as of Sunday evening.

Initially, the UI expected to open the IMU’s ground-floor bookstore by 2011. That date was pushed back due to complications with FEMA, in which the UI was required to submit a single bid for flood recovery, which could not include the bookstore.

In an August interview with The Daily Iowan, UI President Sally Mason said there are lots of projects that the UI has undertaken this year, many of which stem from the 2008 flood.

“[The IMU is] a huge project now that we’ll get underway with,” Mason said in August. “Obviously, beginning to clear the sites for the three new buildings, that’s going to be a big part of what goes on this year as well.”

UI student and IMU staff member Scott Lahn is one of many students who have yet to see a fully functional IMU.

“I didn’t have a chance to see what it was like before, but there’s definitely a lack of fun things to do there now,” he said.

He said he sees the IMU as more of a place to study rather than to hang out with friends.

“I just hope my money is going to the right place,” Lahn said.

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