Higher education

University of Iowa's storied Burge seeks $7 million in upgrades

Quality expected 'by students choosing to live there'

University of Iowa residence building Burge Hall. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette/file photo)
University of Iowa residence building Burge Hall. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette/file photo)

IOWA CITY — Pink tile still peppers the University of Iowa’s storied Burge Residence Hall, hinting at its origins — an all-female dormitory built in 1958 to address an on-campus housing shortage.

Since that time, the $5.5 million, five-story residence hall has morphed into a co-ed dorm and grown, with the addition of a $9 million wing in 2009. Although Mayflower Residence Hall, with a 1,009-resident capacity, has edged it out as the largest on campus, Burge remains among the most popular.

And UI officials hope to keep it that way with $7 million in upgrades over three years.

“Residence halls are an important factor in a student’s decision to attend the university and have direct impact on student retention and success,” according to a proposal for the upgrades submitted to the Board of Regents. “Burge Residence Hall continues to be popular and must maintain a level of quality expected by students choosing to live there.”

The proposed upgrades, to be presented to the regents’ facilities committee next week, include renovating the 350,000-square-foot structure’s interior — replacing finishes in student rooms, corridors, lounges and elevator lobbies, according to board documents.

The work also would see the replacement of water and sanitary piping, vanities and fixtures in student rooms, drywall veneer, flooring, paint, closet systems and window treatments.

The university hopes to start work in summer 2018 and complete it — in phases over four summers — by 2021. Funding would come through “university housing renewal and improvement funds.”

University officials are asking regents to approve planning for the project, which will cover up the historic pink tile, according to Von Stange, assistant vice president for student life and director of UI Housing and Dining.


The demand for Burge upgrades hearkens back to sentiment behind its original construction. The hall — which sits just south of Currier on the east side of campus and was named after Adelaide Burge, the sixth and last dean of women — was meant to accommodate rising student enrollment in the 1950s.

“Burge was the beginning of the post-World War II era where students started coming back, and the university started building in earnest,” Stange told The Gazette. “It was the first building of those that we built during that phase of the mid-1950s to late-1960s when most campuses were booming.”

University enrollment in recent years, along with student demand to live on campus, has been rising, and the university responded by opening the Mary Louise Petersen Hall on the west side of campus in 2015. It also is building the new Elizabeth Catlett Hall near Burge, which — when it opens in the fall — will become the university’s largest at 12 stories and a capacity for 1,049 residents.

Although Burge’s capacity is listed at 957, Stange said demand has forced the university to triple up some double rooms, and today it houses 1,000 to 1,100 students.

The UI residence system is expecting to increase its total occupancy from the current 6,864 to 7,226 in the 2017-18 academic year, according to regent documents. It’s also asking the board at its meeting next week to approve rate increases, upping the cost of the most common double-occupancy rooms with full board by $48.

Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa are proposing larger rate bumps — $161 and $152, respectively. But, if the board approves all the requests, the UI’s total price will remain the highest at $10,015.

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

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