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University of Iowa wants to raze former AIB apartments

Board of Regents to consider request next week

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Months after taking over the AIB College of Business campus in Des Moines, the University of Iowa is asking for Board of Regents permission to raze six apartment buildings on the property.

The campus, which shuttered over the summer and reopened in the fall as the Iowa Center for Higher Education, is offering four UI undergraduate programs but eventually could offer programming from all three of the state’s public universities.

When AIB nearly two years ago announced it wanted to gift its campus to the University of Iowa, it had visions of the property becoming a satellite UI campus that could absorb existing AIB students and faculty. But the Board of Regents quickly announced the property instead would become a type of regional center, and officials said AIB students and faculty would have to apply to join the university.

Earlier this year, the Board of Regents commissioned an assessment of higher education needs in the Des Moines area to determine, in part, whether the AIB campus was the best location for new public university offerings in the area.

That survey found a downtown location would be best — not the AIB campus — although the firm that conducted the review said the AIB campus could work. Concerns with the property involved its age, according to the assessment.

“Considerable upgrades (therefore costs) may be required to ensure an updated, sound, and fully operational education site to meet an expanded local need,” according to the assessment.

UI officials in documents made public Tuesday cite the aging infrastructure in their request to raze six apartment buildings on Fleur Drive — known as the Fleur Apartments. At 10,081 square feet each, they were built in 1969 and AIB bought them from a private developer in 1984. AIB used them primarily as dormitory apartments for students — although one was used for offices.

“Razing the structures was chosen because they do not fit the current or future programming plans for the campus, are unoccupied posing a serious security hazard, carry a significant maintenance cost of $100,000 a year, and have exceeded their estimated life of 35 years,” according to regent documents.

Each of the buildings is wood-frame construction, three stories, and holds 12 apartments. UI officials, according to the documents, said repurposing the apartments for other uses — like classroom or office space — “would be very difficult” — in part because they are not handicap accessible, don’t contain fire sprinkler systems, and are poorly insulated.

Following demolition, according to the documents, the area will be graded and seeded and will remain part of the campus green space “until a future use is determined for the location.”

In light of its impending closure, the 95-year-old AIB last year sold three apartment buildings — leaving Iowa with fewer to handle. After razing another six buildings, Board of Regents spokesman Josh Lehman said, just two AIB buildings previously used to house students — known as Fenton Hall East and West — will remain.

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