The University of Iowa it keeps growing and growing and growing.
The campus, and the city itself, lost a beloved icon during a fire last fall. The rebuilding of Old Capitols dome has grabbed headlines in the press.
But its the new construction and reconstruction elsewhere on campus that may be the bigger story.
There are at least 25 major construction projectsthose that cost $250,000 or more eachin various stages of development right now.
And thats only a portion of the projects in progress, according to campus planner Larry Wilson.
He estimates that there are more than 400 projects in the works overall, from new classroom construction to parking-space additions to minor infrastructure updates.
A large number of these projects already were under way before the past years budget woes began. Alsoalthough there were budget cuts in operations fundingmoney for capital projects is still available, as capital funds cannot be used for operations or salaries.
Whether big or small, all these projects are important, Wilson says, and they all combine to make this year the busiest ever for construction at Iowa.
Theres so much going on right now. A lot of its visible work that people see when they walk across campus, he says. But theres also a lot that goes on behind the scenes, in the planning stages, in design. Iowas a busy place.
Among those 25 major projects are several that promise great benefits for thousands of students and an array of academic departments in the next few years.
Even though the states recent budget woes caused fiscal belt-tightening at the University, most of the planned construction projects will continue on schedule, notes Andrew Ives, interim director of Facilities Services Group (FSG).
Generally, the state cuts the Universitys operations budget, not its capital commitments, which are used for construction, Ives explains. The legislature dedicates funds to construction projects to ensure that the University can meet its long-term educational and research needs. Tuition dollars do not pay for buildings.
Also, many of the projects are funded, in part, by private donations, Ives says.
Usually these gifts are tied to a reasonable timetable. Donors expect that projects will proceed in a timely manner, Ives says. We cant sit on the funds forever, waiting for the economy to get better, or we could lose them.
The area around Burge Residence Hall is a flurry of activity these days. Burge itself is getting a dining hall expansion, renovated lobby, and new entryways. The remodeled dining facility will feature a food court similar to the one recently opened in Hillcrest Residence Hall. The dining facility and the lobby renovation are scheduled for completion in fall 2004.
The design lets students go directly to serving stations and will provide a wider variety of food. A lot of the food will be prepared right in front of them. Residents will be able to go through the food service area much faster than before, and there will be longer serving hours so itll be more convenient, says Beverly Robalino, project manager and senior architect for FSGs Design and Construction Services.
The new Burge dining area will take some cues from Hillcrests operation, which has a design so popular it routinely serves thousands of meals a day. Hillcrest serves between 2,100 and 2,200 meals per mealtime300 meals more than expected. Burge has been designed to serve 2,800 meals per mealtime.
Nearby, work on the new Blank Honors Center is under way and construction on the Pomerantz Career Center is scheduled to begin in May 2003. And the T. Anne Cleary Walkway that runs behind Burge and south to Jefferson Street is expanding. Eventually, plans call for a river overlook at the end of Bloomington Street.
Mike Brooks has been listening to people talk about plans for the new honors center for at least three years. Because hes a senior, the literature, science, and the arts major and Honors Program member expects to be long gone by the centers scheduled opening in fall 2003, but he encourages younger honors students to take advantage of it.
The center means an incredible amount to the students. What Im really excited about is that even though Iowas a big university, there are a lot of focus points around which you can make communities so it doesnt seem big or overwhelming, Brooks says. Places like this center have shared resources, common areas, a library, places where people can gather, meet new friends, and work together.
Yet this year, crews may begin construction on the proposed Philip D. Adler Journalism and Mass Communication Building, adjacent to the Becker Communication Studies Building, an expansion of the Art Building, and the Carver Biomedical Research Building on the health sciences campus.
A new parklike gathering place, Gibson Square, recently opened at the corner of Madison and Burlington, across from the Main Library.
For Hawkeye sports fans and recreation seekers, the UI Athletics Hall of Fame Roy G. Karro Building on Mormon Trek Boulevard was dedicated in September. Also near the site is a new soccer field. In the next few years, tentative plans call for a new indoor aquatic center with indoor and outdoor tennis courts and a wealth of exercise equipment for use by students, faculty, and staff.
Then theres the centerpiece of campus, Old Caps dome, which should be back in its revered spot on the Pentacrest by February. A new roof for the building is expected to follow in early spring.
Interior renovationssome fire-related, some notwill begin in March and continue through at least December 2003. Nonfire-related upgrades, exterior structural upgrades, and landscaping are expected to follow the other work if funding is available. (For more information on the Old Capitol restoration project, visit www.uiowa.edu/%7Eoldcap/history_p7.shtml.)
Gary Nagle, an architect and project manager for the dome restoration for FSGs Design and Construction Services, expects the domes return to have a calming effect on campus.
Its a strong symbol for a lot of people on this campus and for Iowans around the country, Nagle says. Well all be breathing a big sigh of relief when its back up there and the bells ringing again.
Brooks has noticed the construction boom going on at the University and throughout the Iowa City area. For instance, parts of downtown have become a virtual hard-hat zone during construction of an addition to the Iowa City Public Library and several apartment buildings.
Brooks admits that students grumble a bit about parking hassles, detours, and other inconveniences. But overall, he says, everyone realizes its a necessary inconvenience.
It might be a little annoying, but it means that in the future, Iowa will have an even better campus, he says. Its so exciting to see what the next group coming through will have to look forward to.
By Amy Schoon