Education

University of Iowa construction freeze could last longer

Museum of Art, Field House renovations on hold, per state cuts

The University of Iowa Museum of Art (rendering shown here) is one project that could be delayed by the construction freeze.
The University of Iowa Museum of Art (rendering shown here) is one project that could be delayed by the construction freeze.

COUNCIL BLUFFS — A five-month University of Iowa moratorium on new campus construction — including athletics and hospital projects — could extend longer depending on the institution’s financial outlook come September.

UI President Bruce Harreld formally announced the construction freeze Thursday in the wake of legislative funding reversals that pulled back $11 million from the UI and Iowa State University in the current budget year ending June 30. That cut will take $5.5 million from the UI and $5.4 million from ISU and adds to about $30 million in state funding cuts since last year.

After Sept. 12, Harreld told the Board of Regents meeting here, “The university will evaluate the levels of state support to determine if the moratorium must continue.”

“We regret this action,” he said. “However, the current and pressing need to account for such a large decrease in just 90 days forces our hand.”

The moratorium will affect more than 100 projects in various phases of planning, design or construction — all those already not under a construction contract.

Most of those being delayed are small, targeted maintenance-related projects, according to UI Senior Vice President Rod Lehnertz. But some of the higher profile projects now on hold include the $50 million Museum of Art, $10 million Field House renovation, $10 million Finkbine Golf Clubhouse, $1.3 million Cambus facility, $8 million Lindquist Center renovation, a new wrestling facility and a public health addition.

Projects going forward — because they’re under contract and under construction in many cases — include an $89 million renovation of the Kinnick Stadium north end zone and a new $96.3 million pharmacy building.

In conjunction with a new Finkbine Golf Clubhouse, the university had planned to partner with a developer to replace the nearby 57-year-old University Club with a hotel that would serve the golf course, UI Hospitals and Clinics and the larger campus community.

UI spokeswoman Jeneane Beck said the university always intended to take that project slow and “allow the new clubhouse project to proceed first to determine what that would mean for the rest of the site.”

Although delaying construction across the UI campus is expected to save money in the immediate term, Harreld told the regents it won’t address the generational defunding of higher education in Iowa.

And Lehnertz said delaying this work could backfire, as the university carefully plans maintenance projects based on campus needs. Postponing work could make it more extensive and costly in the future.

Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa, in response to the state budget problems, also have shelved some construction and deferred maintenance projects. But they have not issued moratoriums like at the University of Iowa.

l Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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