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Regents push back renovations

BY CHRIS HIGGINS | SEPTEMBER 10, 2014 5:00 AM

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AMES — Plans to renovate one of the University of Iowa’s oldest buildings will have to wait.

Officials announced at Tuesday’s state Board of Regents’ meeting new plans for modernizing Seashore Hall and its surroundings, which include building a new psychology facility nearby.

The proposal calls for $67.5 million in state funding over five years. The new psychology building would require no legislative money; it would instead be paid for through donations and existing university resources.

Seashore, built in 1899 as the UI hospital, is the home of the Psychology Department.

“We’ve got folks who are actually stationed in former restrooms,” said Rod Lehnertz, the director of planning, design, and construction for UI Facilities Management. “The building is overcrowded and definitely outdated in its functions and value for the important programs that exist there.”

However, the regents took issue with its adherence to the academic and economic goals of the ongoing efficiency review, given its cost.

The regents voted to push its requested state funding stream back one year before recommending it, along with a project by the University of Northern Iowa.

“Two of the presentations today were basically remodeling outdated buildings,” said Regent Milt Dakovich. “That may or not be the right answer.”

Officials requested that funding begin in fiscal 2016 with $9 million, but it has been moved to 2017 under the regents’ recommendation. The new psychology-building construction is unaffected.

“The efficiency study’s never going to say that a 19th-century building is adequate,” Dakovich said. “What the efficiency study’s going to recommend is that integration between the physical facility and our education-delivery component to ascertain the wisest thing to do with that building.”

Iowa State University’s timeline for its suggested student innovation center remains unchanged.

“There were several elements of that one that more mirrored the things that we’re talking about,” Dakovich said.

He said the Iowa State’s new building is in line with ideals of the efficiency study.

He pointed to the innovation center’s ability to be used by numerous disciplines and use of technology. He also said its reduced use of state money was a secondary factor.

Lehnertz and Dakovich were both mum on specifying what could and should change in the next year to satisfy the regents.

The Seashore plan is preliminary, and details still need to be ironed out. The first couple of million dollars would be used to create an opening cash flow.

“We won’t just wipe the whole lot clean,” Lehnertz said. “It would be the easiest thing to do, but we’re looking at making the highest value of any decision that occurs, and that could be a combination of demolition and also modeling.”

Most building projects at the UI do not use state dollars, and officials tend to request them for construction on aging structures, such as the Pharmacy Building.

Seashore Hall has $28 million in deferred maintenance costs, and faculty who work inside say renovation is long in coming.

“It clearly needs to be renovated functionally, aesthetically, and in every other way,” said UI psychology Professor Alan Christensen. “I think that’s clear to everybody … it’s very embarrassing.”


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