IMU reconstruction to begin this fall


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Despite five years having passed since Iowa River flood of 2008, any sign of reconstruction to one of the University of Iowa’s most prominent buildings — the IMU — remains to be seen.

And while the day-to-do activities have resumed in much of the building, the once heavily used ground floor remains shuttered.

“The ground floor before the flood was the height of activity,” UI Dean of Students David Grady said.

Now, after several delays, Grady said the plan is to start reconstruction late this fall, with project completion set for June 2015.

While Grady failed to respond to requests for the updated cost estimates, according to UI Facilities Management, flood mitigation and permanent ground floor and floodwall construction is estimated at slightly more than $22 million. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will contribute some funding.

Plans now call for the return of the University Bookstore, food court, student lounge study spaces, a Hills Bank and Trust branch, to the ground floor, he said.

“We’re looking forward to making sure that we got a vibrant and relevant space for students,” he said, noting that now UI officials are working with an advantage, as they have learned what has and what hasn’t successful in the buildings that have sprung up on campus post-flood.

Entertainment areas for which the Campus Activities Board would share space will be included, Grady said in an email.

The goal is to get the ground floor back in operation to welcome the Class of 2019 during summer orientation, he said.

Prior to 2008, many UI students considered the IMU a multifaceted space in which to gather.

“[The] IMU was a hub of student life and connectivity,” said Katherine Valde, the president of University of Iowa Student Government, adding that since then, some focus, including that of dining options, have shifted to the Old Capitol Town Center.

Valde said in order for FEMA funding, the guideline states that it requires the IMU to recreate based on how it looked exactly before the flood.

Regent Robert Downer, who, in an Oct. 12, 2012, interview with the DI, called the slow-going project a “disappointment,” says today he would like the project to progress.

“There’s an incredible number of rulings that have to be followed, and those don’t necessarily affect every building in the same ways and same timeline,” Downer said.

Although officials have indicated that restoration of the lower level is among top priority, several other non-flood-recovery projects seem to have taken precedence over it.

For example, a $300,000 hotel-room renovation project on the fourth floor of the Iowa House Hotel and the first of a three-phase renovation at the UI Main Library, a $14.5 million Learning Commons, have been completed ahead of the IMU project.

Grady said this comes even as the design for the ground floor was completed before the Learning Commons opened.

Since then, a number of UI students and faculty have chosen to call the library home for their study and social needs over the IMU.

UI sophomore Anel Melendrez said the IMU is a good place to study with many resources, but at the same time, she’s noticed the popularity is going down.

“I’ve noticed there’s less people, also since [the Main Library] has been remodeled, people still come here and meet…but that’s about it,” she said.

UI senior Ji Seung Jung said that while she used to study at the IMU all the time, ever since the completion of the library renovations, she’s been more attracted to it.

“Now, the library has dual monitors everywhere, group study cubicles and more,” she said. “Especially with the brighter lightings it really tempts me to come here a lot more often.”

UI graduate assistant Pablo Rodriguez Balbontin also said he was excigted by the “new” library and said he believes it is attracting more students than the IMU is.

However, one UI instructor isn’t sold on the library.

UI teaching assistant Pat Brown said he preferred the original library offerings.

“It has occurred to me … like this multimillion renovation they’re doing — basically turning the library into a café — I’m not really into that,” he said.

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