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IOWA CITY — Before University of Iowa Health Care can forge ahead with the first of three massive projects officials recently revealed as part of a 10-year master plan for the main Iowa City campus, UI must build a new “West Campus Academic Building” along Melrose Avenue — near the College of Law.
That building — planned on a parking lot between the Gerdin Athletic Learning Center and UIHC parking ramp 4 — will hold academic programs currently housed in the 55-year-old Wendell Johnson Speech & Hearing Center, which must come down to make space for a new UIHC inpatient tower.
“The new (West Campus Academic Building) is time sensitive,” according to a recent UI request for programming, planning and architectural design services for the project. “The completion of this is required prior to the construction of a new University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinic patient bed tower.”
With a 2025 goal for beginning construction on the new tower — which officials have said could rise as high as the recent 14-story Stead Family Children’s Hospital — UI documents indicate project planning on the new West Campus Academic Building needs to start in April.
The optimal schedule, according to documents, calls for final design review in February 2023, with construction starting in May and completion by December 2024, with occupancy by January or February 2025.
“The selected firm will need to be capable of meeting a somewhat aggressive schedule,” according to the UI request for qualifications, issued last week with a response deadline of March 1.
“The university intends to raze (the Speech & Hearing Center) following completion of the new facility.”
Regents to review
The proposed West Campus Academic Building hasn’t yet gone to the Board of Regents for approval, but UI officials mentioned it last month in presenting regents with their 10-year facilities plan.
“Associated with buildings that currently sit on the footprints of the tower are No. 1-rated Speech and Hearing Program as well as health and human physiology — the fastest growing program in our College of Liberal Arts and Sciences,” UI Senior Vice President and University Architect Rod Lehnertz said.
Before construction starts, UI must bring the proposed new academic building to regents for description, design and budget approval, according to board spokesman Josh Lehman.
The new West Campus Academic Building will consolidate and house academic programs currently in the Speech & Hearing Center — primarily part of the Department of Communications Sciences and Disorders, which boasts the 2nd-ranked audiology and 6th-ranked speech pathology programs in the nation.
“The facility will also be programmed and designed to be expandable to include additional programs to be determined during the planning and programming phase,” according to the UI request for qualifications.
The size and cost of the new west campus building haven’t been determined. But the current Speech & Hearing Center is about 69,000 square feet.
“The facility will include office suites, classrooms, laboratories and clinical spaces to support the academic and research programs and is also intended to house one level of underground parking,” according to the UI request.
Just days before the university last week issued its call for help planning and designing a new West Campus Academic Building, UI Health Care issued a call for providers to implement its 10-year facilities master plan.
“This oversight includes not only UIHC projects but planning and coordination for enabling projects for the University of Iowa,” according to the UIHC request.
Listed among the health care-related facilities involved in the 10-year plan are:
- A new inpatient bed tower and “numerous preceding enabling projects.”
- A new UI Carver College of Medicine research building and enabling projects.
- A new ambulatory care center tower and enabling projects.
When UIHC officials in January shared details of their 10-year master plan, they characterized the third project as an ambulatory care “clinic building.”
UIHC CEO Suresh Gunasekaran told reporters in January he doesn’t anticipate any of the three projects will require a state-approved “certificate of need” — which UIHC had a hard time getting for its $395 million facility in North Liberty.
“When you modernize an existing facility, you do not tend to need a certificate of need,” Gunasekaran said. “You also don't need a certificate of need for a clinic building. And you definitely don't need a certificate of need for academic and research buildings.”
A new UIHC program management service provider for its 10-year facilities master plan — with proposals due Friday — will coordinate a wide range of stakeholders, including patient advisory groups, consultants, the private energy company that now runs UI’s utilities, UI information technology teams and others.
The provider will be charged with monitoring and managing work schedules and budget adherence; providing project managers; and coordinating programming studies, among other things.
“Services will begin in March 2022 and continue through the life of the 10-year master plan,” according to the UI request.
Although the university expects this phase of the master plan to take 10 years, “the actual rate of progress will be determined by the financial performance achieved by the UIHC organization,” the UI request note.,
Although the program manager will be charged with developing a plan to deliver on 10 years of projects, the initial scope of services for any contract will be for three years, with options to extend.
Companies applying to manage that work are expected to show work on similar projects — including academic medical center master plan implementation and endeavors reaching $1 billion.
Vanessa Miller covers higher education for The Gazette.
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