Getting in on the ground floor


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After the 2008 flood destroyed much of the IMU ground floor, revitalization and construction is almost finished.

Once construction projects are completed in April, the University of Iowa can prepare for a grand reopening. Officials aim to open the ground floor to the public by finals week, and they plan celebratory activities for the first week of the 2015-16 academic year, including a possible ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The IMU ground floor has been unoccupied after 32 inches of floodwater filled it during the 2008 flood. The flood caused a once-popular student location to vanish.

An in-house project group — called the Reoccupation and Revitalization Committee and composed of 25 students and campus administrators — has planned ground-floor work since October 2014.

“I’m most excited for the IMU to be seen as a fun destination again,” said UI student Jake Murphy, who is on the IMU programming subcommittee. “My hope is that when the ground floor opens, it becomes a place people want to hang out. I think it would be awesome to have the IMU be a place people go between classes and for night activities.”

The ground floor will have a variety of new amenities.

Food vendors will include a coffee shop, a food court with branded businesses, the Union Market, and vending machines. However, as of now, students will not be able to use meal swipes for food purchases but can still use them at the River Room Cafe on the main floor.

Other businesses, such as Hills Bank and the Iowa Hawk Shop, will move back to the ground floor for more space than they currently have in the first floor of the building and in the Old Capitol Town Center, respectively.

Hills Bank will have four times as much space as it occupies on the IMU main level.

The Iowa Hawk Shop will move back to the ground floor and gain more space to feature a technology area as well as a large textbook area.

“[The Hawk Shop is] getting more space than what it has and just [adding] different things,” said Cory Lockwood, the IMU associate director of event and facility operations. “The electronics line has expanded.”

Additionally, there will be many seating options located throughout the location.

“The corridor is pretty wide for what it’s used for,” Lockwood said. “So we’ll have extra tables and chairs along the walls.”

“Chalk Talk,” a chalkboard with updates on student organizations, will have a seating area around a TV and couches, and the Hawkeye Room will have chairs and seating with gaming options such as a pool table, shuffle board, and foosball table.

Attached to the Hawkeye Room, there will be a “dimly lit” room that will have couches. Lockwood said the room will be similar to a room prior to the flood in which students often went to take a nap between classes.

Students will also be able to enjoy outdoor seating when the weather is nice. The new patio will extend around the outside of the building and can be accessed from the River Room Cafe, the ground floor, and an outside entrance.

There will be opportunities for students to see and tour the location before the grand opening.

“In the spring, we’re hoping to do some tours for focus groups,” said John Cory, the IMU facility coordinator. “We’ll have two ‘hard hat’ tours for student leaders across campus and other departments … we’re looking at reaching out to other departments and off-campus guests.”

Wendy Moorehead, the strategic communication manager for UI Facilities Management, said the project budget is $27 million for ground floor permanent recovery and mitigation. The construction phase will cost $21.5 million.

Years of planning and construction resulted in floodwalls being built in place.

“Students should start looking forward to the numerous opportunities that will be offered when the ground floor opens,” Murphy said. “The addition of a new location on campus will be something the university hasn’t really seen in recent years.”

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