Petersen Residence Hall advances floor-by-floor


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The first new dorm on campus since 1968 is close to completion.

The University of Iowa Mary Louise Petersen Residence Hall will open next semester and will offer public learning commons and social areas on each floor, a multipurpose room, private study rooms open to the public, and a sports grill.

The $53 million construction project will be completed midsummer. Petersen will join Hillcrest, Quad, Rienow, and Slater on the West Side.

“[Petersen Hall is] in high demand,” said Von Stange, the UI assistant vice president for Student Life and senior director of University Housing and Dining. “When you get a new building, everyone wants to be in the new building, but we’re limiting it to about one-sixth of the Living and Learning Communities of the 33 that we have. Not everybody is going to be eligible to be in here.”

Thursday night was the first time-slot for incoming UI students to select dorms and roommates for the fall.

One learning community being offered is Global Mosaic, in which international students will be paired with American roommates.

The 10-floor building contains 187,603 square feet and has room to hold 501 students.

With the new dorm, additional rooms in off-campus apartments, and other projects, there will be 600 more beds available to students than were available in the fall of 2014.

Bathrooms are designed in pods, with a shower, toilet, and sink in each. Five pods are located on each floor.

Dorm rooms do not have sinks in each room, unlike all the other dorms on campus.

However, every floor will have its own study room and social area.

“I think incoming students will be very excited to see the way the rooms are arranged and all the additional facilities that are part of this new residence hall,” said Wendy Moorehead, the communications director for UI Facilities Management. “It’s just an exciting time for us on campus.”

One unique feature of Petersen Hall is the first-floor amenities that are offered, which include a sports grill, pool tables, seating for 200, and a clear view of the bus stop.

Black’s Gold Grille is named after Greg Black, a previous dining director at UI who has worked for 30 years prior to his retirement. It is designed with black, gold, white, and gray tiles along the walls.
To apply the sports theme, murals will be hung illustrating swimmers, track athletes, and other sports outside of football and basketball, Stange said.

“We wanted to focus on some of the other sports that the Hawkeyes are good at but don’t get a lot of fanfare,” he said.

It will serve “comfort food” and is anticipated to stay open until later hours. Students will be able to use Hawkeye Dollars.

“It is not designed as a meal plan at this point in time just because of the food we’re going to have and because Hillcrest is literally right across the street,” Stange said. “Like everything else, they can charge to their U-Bill as well.”

When designing the building, officials noticed West-Side buildings lack large gathering spaces.

“One thing when we created this building was to create a gathering space for the entire neighborhood,” Stange said. “The multipurpose room on the main floor can hold 300 or 400 students in there.”

UI junior Lauren Hawley, a transfer student who lives in Quad, said that even though Hillcrest is close by, she wishes Quad offered a similar restaurant-style amenity.

In addition, she wishes Quad offered more study spaces.

“I don’t do my homework here. The library is my go-to place,” Hawley said. “But if Quad did have a fancier lounge, it would be fun to go to.”

Next to the multipurpose room on the first level in the new dorm will be the learning commons, which will be divided into rooms open to students who want to hold study groups. There will be smaller rooms available and a large room available. In addition, there will be another larger area for individuals to study.

“I think that’s going to be one of the biggest challenges because a lot of people are going to want that space,” Stange said. “It’s going to be first-come, first-served. There’s going to be no reservation system.”

The last residence hall built on UI campus, Slater, is also on the West Side. Officials anticipate opening a 1,000-bed dorm on the East Side in 2017, and said they believe no further dorm construction will be necessary after that facility’s completion.

The next dorm-focused task will be demolishing Quad in the summer of 2016.

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