Construction to UI music building underway


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Officials in the UI School of Music have watched this year’s high waters and flooding along the Iowa River, and they say they are an eerie reminder of the flood of 2008, which ultimately heavily damamged the school’s facilities in the Hancher/Voxmann/Clapp complex.

“It is a little reminder of five years ago,” music professor and associate director of undergraduate studies Benjamin Coelho said. “For me, it’s a reminder of where we were, where we are, and where we want to be again.”

After five years of the school finding homes in various places around campus, work on a new facility that will reunite the school is underway at the southwest corner of Burlington and Clinton Streets.

UI spokesman Tom Moore told The Daily Iowan on June 7 that preliminary work in the form of sidewalk removal, installation of barrier rails, and the erection of construction fencing around the site started last week.

Totaling 90,000 square feet, the building will house a 700-seat performance hall, a 200-seat recital hall, an organ hall, rehearsal rooms, classrooms, studios, offices, and a music library when it opens in May 2016.

The UI will seek LEED Gold certification for the project.

Final costs for the new facility were not available as of Monday evening.

Andrew Parker, a UI assistant professor of oboe, said he looks forward to the strengthened music community the new facility will foster.

“I think it’s a lot easier to have a kind of homogeneous artistic vision when everybody is in the same geographical place, as opposed to what we are now, which is spread out among about eight different buildings,” he said.

Parker said the new facility will serve as a great tool in recruiting music students.

“I’ve seen the blueprints for the building, and it really looks like the kind of space that’s going to make people really want to be there and be a part of the program,” he said.

No longer united under one roof, the school has been a creative community divided since the summer of 2008, forced to use various facilities across campus either acquired or refurbished by the UI.

To date, the school’s occupied space includes occupying first floor retail space in near-downtown apartment buildings and space in the University Capitol Center.

Coelho said he welcomes the reunification of the various disciplines as well.

“We as musicians — and I know it’s a cliché to say that we work in harmony — but not being able to really have harmony because of physical separation has put a stress on the faculty especially.”

UI junior Alexa Sowers said despite the distance among current music buildings that can exceed the time allowed between classes, the interim buildings have been accommodating. 

In addition to being a convenience for students and faculty, area businesses say the new complex will also be situated in an advantageous spot for the business community.

“To see something that’s going to enhance the culture and the activities that are available, not only to the students but the residents of the Corridor, is very exciting,” said Melanie Baker, the general manager of the Sheraton and hotelVetro.

For Downtown District Executive Director Nancy Bird, the activities and events at the new facility will benefit the local restaurant and retail market as well.

“With the number of people that will be introduced to the area, it means a lot for our downtown businesses, because they receive those additional feet on the street,” she said.

Despite its prospective completion date still three years away, the music schoolwill be able to watch its new home rise up and take shape.

“Just the fact that it’s bringing us together under one roof is going to make a tremendous difference in the spirit of the [building] in looking to the future,” Coelho said.

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