New Hancher Auditorium site work underway

Three flood-replacement projects are expected to cost about $420 million

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IOWA CITY -- Site work began last month at the new Hancher Auditorium location, a welcome sign that the major flood-recovery project is moving forward four and a half years after the disaster, one University of Iowa official said.

Fencing has gone up around the future site of the new Hancher Auditorium, and the first wave of contractors started prep work at the site Dec. 26, said Rod Lehnertz, UI director of planning, design and construction.

"It's visual evidence for us and many others that those projects, after securing the funding, were moving forward as planned," he said. "It was important for us to get ... the contractors out there before the end of the year."

The Hancher construction will be bid in five packages, Lehnertz said. The first of those five building packages went out for bid this week, and the remainder will go out for bid between now and October, he said.

Hancher, along with the School of Music and Art Building East, are the three major flood-replacement projects nearing the construction phase for the UI. The three projects are expected to cost about $420 million, with the Federal Emergency Management Agency covering about $270 million of that. A months-long federal dispute about the FEMA funding for the three projects was resolved in late October, when UI officials got word they would get funding to replace the buildings at new sites.

Because they are federally-funded projects, extra approval steps for each bid are necessary beyond the traditional UI process, Lehnertz said.

In about a month, there will be additional evidence of activity at the new Hancher site, Lehnertz said, when more contractors start the structural pile work for the building foundations.

Demolition of the old, flood-damaged Hancher is a different process, expected to go out for bid in April, he said. The first step of that project will be several months of asbestos abatement inside the building, he said.

There isn't as much visible activity yet at the new School of Music site in downtown Iowa City, Lehnertz said, with the first of several bids on that project expected to go out in February. There have been some soil boring tests at the site, related to the design process.

"One might imagine that in March, we'll begin to see physical evidence of work on the music site," he said.

The Art Building East project is smaller than the other two, and will be bid as one package, Lehnertz said. That bid is expected to go out in May.

All three projects are targeted for completion in early to spring 2016, he said.

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