116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Through a half-dozen projects totaling up to $60.8 million, the University of Iowa is seeking to modernize its campus with a new Student Well-Being Center and renovated Hillcrest Residence Hall, while also shrinking its footprint.
By razing two buildings, the proposed UI projects — when considered collectively — would comply with a moratorium the Board of Regents imposed in September barring any new construction through June 30, 2022, that increases the net square footage of its university campuses.
The board will consider the request at its meeting next week.
The proposed projects include:
- $3 million to $3.5 million to raze the 137,239-square-foot Westlawn, which houses Student Health and Wellness and University Counseling, among other things, on the west side of campus near the College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics.
- $750,000 to raze the 25,864-square-foot old laundry building, located south of the Campus Recreation and Wellness Building just east of the Iowa River.
- $25 million to $28 million to build a new 32,500-square-foot Student Well-Being Center on the site of the old laundry building.
- $4.5 million to $5.5 million to build a new 36,000-square-foot West Campus Services Facility near the west campus chilled water plant and the west campus steam plant.
- $23 million to renovate Hillcrest Residence Hall, the campus’ largest west-side hall.
The Hillcrest renovation is further along than the other projects — having received permission to plan in 2019. UI officials now are seeking board approval of the project’s $23 million budget and of the project description.
And although the UI aims to create a new 15,000-square-foot day care center for its hospitals and clinics — to replace the one in the to-be razed Westlawn building — officials haven’t identified a location or cost.
“This would be done in a timely manner, so as not to delay the razing of Westlawn,” according to the UI request of the board.
Tearing down the aging buildings not only would shave 163,103 square feet off the UI campus footprint, but officials expect it will eliminate $21.2 million in deferred maintenance costs.
Those savings, when juxtaposed with projected costs and new square footage of the proposed projects, balance out to a net loss of 79,603 square feet and expenses in the $35.1 million to $39.6 million range — excluding unknown costs for the day care center.
The Board of Regents’ recent construction moratorium grew out of an advisory group it tasked in April 2020 to find “administrative and academic collaborations and efficiencies across the regent enterprise.”
In this week’s request for board approval to proceed with planning the UI projects, officials list funding sources as temporary investments, building renewal funds, future student fees and other UI funding.
For its Hillcrest project, officials list dormitory revenue bonds, and university housing renewal and improvement funds as its sources.
Student Well-Being Center
The proposed Student Well-Being Center aims to “remedy the significant deficiencies of the existing student health facilities located at Westlawn,” according to board documents.
Westlawn was built in 1919 and “is past its useful life” at 102 years old, UI officials report. The new building would sit just south the Campus Recreation and Wellness building, “taking advantage of adjacent and related services and programs at a site near the campus core and frequented by most students.”
It would consolidate these student services and programs related to mental health, wellness, counseling, student care and aid by housing:
- University Counseling Service
- Student Health
- Student Wellness
- Student Care and Assistance
- UI Food Pantry
- UI Clothing Closet.
University officials identified the site for its new wellness center via a team of students, faculty, staff and consultants who conducted a feasibility study of options. Student well-being has become a growing issue nationally and locally — with UI survey data showing students’ top academic impediments include mental health and well-being concerns such as stress, anxiety, sleep, depression, cold/flu, work, ADHD, alcohol use, computer/gaming/internet use and relationship challenges.
The issue has become such a priority on the UI campus that its Undergraduate Student Government recently endorsed building a new wellness center and helping fund it with a new $80-per-semester student fee “not to be imposed until the facility is open or near open.”
“The expectation is that students will be closely involved and consulted on decisions related to the well-being center design as well as proposed programs and services,” according to an April 11 UISG endorsement memorandum.
Hillcrest Residence Hall — built in 1939 — houses 820 students, making it the largest on the west side of the Iowa River at 267,000 square feet. Its fully furnished rooms come in singles, doubles and triples, and its dining facilities provide food service for the entire west-side residence system.
The renovation — proposed to start this fall and finish in summer 2024 — would refinish student rooms, corridors, lounges, laundry rooms and elevator lobbies.
West campus services
By razing the 63-year-old laundry building behind the UI recreation building, the university proposes consolidating facilities-related services — including its utilities distribution shop and landscape services to a site west of the river by the chilled water and steam plants.
Vanessa Miller covers higher education for The Gazette.
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