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Officials, students mull new pharmacy building

BY CHRIS HIGGINS | JANUARY 28, 2014 5:00 AM

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With state funding all but certain, hopes are high for a new University of Iowa College of Pharmacy building — which is in the planning stages — to replace the current aging structure.

On Jan. 14, Gov. Terry Branstad set aside $2 million in his budget recommendation for use in planning the project. He vetoed such funding last summer.

“[The funding] needs legislative approval, but we actually had that last year,” said UI President Sally Mason. “The last step was really making sure that the governor understood the importance of the project and was on board with that. Clearly, he’s there now, so we’re feeling pretty good that this project is on track for success in the Legislature this year.”

Mason said planning began this year and is projected to continue for around nine months. The project would demolish Quadrangle and most of the current Pharmacy Building, which was constructed in 1961. It will retain the portion built in 1996 — the last time the building was updated.

“Obviously, we can’t tear down the old building until we’ve got a place to put people,” Mason said. “[Students] are going to stay in the old building until we can move them into the new building, and then we will start the teardown process.”

State Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter is happy that the project received planning funding after the regents failed to persuade the governor of its necessity last year.

“The building is one of the oldest buildings on campus in terms of functionality, and its utility cost is one the highest on a per-square-foot basis,” Rastetter said. “It is a building that is dysfunctional for today’s modern needs.”

In July 2013, the governor declined to support $7 million in project planning funding for all three Iowa public universities.

“Last year, the regents of the universities didn’t do a good job of explaining both the design costs and the long-term costs, in particular on the Pharmacy Building when it was going to go from one of the highest utility cost buildings on campus to one of the most efficient,” Rastetter said. “Obviously, we did much better this time as he included the buildings in his budget.”

Current pharmacy students are excited about the prospect of a new home for the program, viewing the current building as cramped and outdated.

“It’s very constricting,” said second-year pharmacy student Kaleb Fincher. “A lot of our facilities are extremely out-of-date. We have no group meeting area, so it makes bringing the community in here impossible.”

Second-year pharmacy student Natalie Blaine agreed with Fincher’s comments, saying the space available to the hundreds of students in the pharmacy program is inadequate for them and student organizations.

Along with becoming more cost-efficient, a new pharmacy building will replace a facility in which classrooms are crowded and laboratories are decades old. The facility will also benefit a program that has seen a drop in faculty and enrollment numbers in recent years as a result of the antiquated facilities.

“Things like that just sort of need to be revamped,” Blaine said.


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