UI pitches pharmacy project again


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The state Board of Regents could be feeling more hopeful about providing the University of Iowa with a new, much-needed facility despite a previous rejection Gov. Terry Branstad.

UI officials went before the regents with what they consider to be “high priority ” at the state Board of Regents meeting on Thursday.

Rod Lehnertz, the UI Facilities Management director of planning, design, and construction, presented the $96.3 million project to the board — but not for the first time.

In the last few years, the regents struggled to garner support for the project. During last year’s legislative session, Branstad line-item vetoed the planning funding for the project but restored funding for a new facility last month. The governor had toured the old building on Oct. 24.

The regents have pointed to the building’s lack of energy efficiency as a major reason the state should fund the project.

“The Pharmacy Building would go from being one of the least-efficient buildings on campus from a utility standpoint to one of the most efficient, along with the laboratories creating economic development by being able to work better with drug companies as well as create jobs,” said Regent President Bruce Rastetter.

According to a UI energy report, the building used roughly 5 million kilowatt hours of electrical energy in fiscal 2009 — more than all the buildings on the UI Pentacrest combined. It ranks as the least-energy-efficient building on campus per square foot.

The UI added a wing to the building roughly 20 years ago, but it still has only two classrooms for students and a practice lab too small for the college’s need.

But the regents need the support of legislators, because the project will require hefty financial support.

The project would require an estimated $66.3 million from the state and the other $33 million would come from the UI and private donors. But legislators say the funds must mirror the state’s priorities.

“The budget must be balanced in a way to reflect middle-class values,” said Rep. Curt Hanson, D-Fairfield.

The new pharmacy project would begin in the fall of 2015. The project would begin when the new residence hall on the West Campus is completed. Then Quadrangle will be torn down, making room for the new pharmacy facility.

The proposal is still up for discussion. Lawmakers will determine whether the project is feasible during the current session.

And support is beginning to gather.

“I believe this project is necessary to bring the College of Pharmacy into the modern world,” said Sen. Nancy Boettger, R-Harlan.

Officials are hoping to advance education while promoting economic growth.

“Everything the UI does is for the advancement of academics,” said Rod Lehnertz, UI Facilities Management’s director of planning, design, and construction. “This project is a great opportunity for economic development for the University of Iowa.”

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