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Seashore Hall renovations in sight

BY CHRIS HIGGINS | FEBRUARY 18, 2014 5:00 AM

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A locked door confronts students who venture to the original entrance of the University of Iowa’s Seashore Hall — a door hiding the antiquated staircases and peeling white walls within.

Renovating Seashore Hall is becoming a priority for university and regent officials, who are confident in the progression of the Pharmacy Building replacement project. Seashore was built in 1899 as the UI’s hospital.

“The building is not in good shape, even the parts that are considered newer,” said Regent Robert Downer.

He said the Psychology and Sociology Departments — which are housed in Seashore — have had their physical location neglected as a renovation plan failed to develop.

Officials have discussed a restoration of the hall before.

“This is a project that has had a long incubation period,” Downer said. “One of the things that happens probably more often than it should is that projects tend to catapult over long-standing projects and move ahead in the listing of projects. This is not something that should happen to Seashore Hall.”

UI President Sally Mason said energy costs and energy efficiency are major factors in determining the need for capital improvement projects.

“With our Energy Center, we are much better able now to monitor every building on campus with regard to how much it costs us to actually operate those buildings,” Mason said. “I would have predicted, before the Energy Center was there, that Seashore Hall was the least-efficient building we had on campus and should probably be torn down or replaced. If you’ve ever been in Seashore Hall, you probably wouldn’t disagree with me.”

However, the Pharmacy Building, which Mason described as a “money pit,” was revealed as the least energy-efficient building on campus in a report. University officials have pushed for state funding to construct a new facility, which would begin in 2015.

Gov. Terry Branstad included $2 million in planning funds in his budget recommendation in January, and UI officials recently presented a proposal to the state Board of Regents requiring $66 million in additional funds from the state Legislature. Lawmakers will discuss the proposal this legislative session.

“I can tell you that the next in line is Seashore Hall,” Mason said. “Once we’re successful in terms of the Pharmacy Building, and we’ve got that one underway, likely you’re going to see a push made.”

The specifics of the push have not been determined.

“We’re still working on what the best plan for Seashore Hall might be,” Mason said. “Is it to tear it down? It’s got some historic significance, so I’m not sure we could tear it all down. Is it to try to renovate, and if so, can we do it in a way that makes sense financially?”

One UI student agrees with officials that the building is in need of an update.

“Just aesthetically, it’s not a great looking building,” said UI junior Lydie Ramm. “It’s my favorite place to study because not many people know about it, which may not be a good thing for the building. It could look less like a basement.”

Downer said the recent boom in construction follows years of neglect.

“People see the hundreds of millions of dollars spent,” he said. “In large part, this is due to the fact that we really lagged on what was needed for updated buildings on campuses. We’re catching up now.”


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