Campus projects, renovations remain on track despite recent flood risks


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Although the Iowa River’s recently spilled-over banks prompted quick defensive action by the University of Iowa to prevent a repeat of the 2008 flood, officials say the flooding has not slowed the progress of three prominent campus projects.  

UI spokesperson Tom Moore said the most recent round of inclement weather has yet to push the completion dates for the new West Campus residence hall or renovation projects at the IMU and Main Library, because a number of UI staff members and related contractors were reassigned from those projects to respond to the flood.

For example, he said, contractors on site at the new dorm were redirected to help construct flood-protection efforts for a nearly week and a half.

Moore said a Monday construction-manager update didn’t indicate a delay in the expected completion date for the new dormitory, set to be completed between spring to summer 2015. He said the $53 million price tag for the new 10-story tower remains unchanged.

“We have had very good weather, and a lot of projects have tended to be on schedule or ahead of schedule, so we had some cushion there,” he said.

Von Stange, the director of UI Housing and Dining, said the UI has expanded construction workdays at the new dorm site during the summer, from the previous 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. period during the academic year.

Designed for a 501 student capacity, it will feature a multipurpose room with a performance space, a sports grill operated by University Dining, a seminar room, group study areas, a common-area kitchen, and offices for residence hall staff, with a heightened focus on living-learning communities incorporating pods of rooms clustered near tutoring, study, and open, communal space. Students will reside in pods of 26 to 28 double rooms with private bathrooms and will share a study room and a lounge with a dining space.

The UI residence system has operated at the full capacity since at least fiscal 2008, and officials anticipate operating at full capacity in the coming years.

Currently, the UI residence system operates with a net revenue of $7.5 million annually, but officials estimate it will take a hit of $329,182 in fiscal 2014 because of “recent bonding for new capital projects,” according to a recent university report.

Rod Lehnertz, the Facilities Management director of planning, design, and construction, said the university has not adjusted the building’s specifications and features since receiving state Board of Regents approval on Sept. 21, 2011.

Alongside continued construction work at the new dorm site, Moore said the IMU restoration project remains on target for a mid-2015 finish. Up-to-date investment costs for that project were not available as of Tuesday evening.

Following the opening of the new West Side dorm, Moore said, the 1920-era Quadrangle Hall, which offers “a very low land use efficiency,” will be demolished. The west half of the Quad site is being considered for a new College of Pharmacy building, and the east side of the parcel will be reserved for future residence-hall development, he said.

UI sophomore Daniel Ley, who lived in Mayflower during his freshman year, said the dorm experience is one that every college student should experience for at least a year. In comparing current residence-hall construction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he said a competitive dorm system may be useful in attracting prospective students to campus.

But one recent UI graduate disagrees.

Lauren Latus, who lived in Hillcrest in 2009 and 2010, said that although she enjoyed her time in the dorms as “a place to escape to,” she believes the UI should invest in future academic purposes while delivering only basic housing options.

“I mean dorm life is dorm life, so I mean that I think that’s a little unnecessary,” she said. “It’s supposed to suck a little.”

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