Education

Bids 'higher than expected' for University of Iowa monuments

New specs seek to lower cost of towers to be paid for by donors

IOWA CITY — After all five of the bids to create “gateway” monuments at entrance points to the University of Iowa campus came in over budget, the school is recasting its net for suppliers with a revised request that includes concessions aimed at ebbing the cost of the “wayfinding” obelisks.

The UI intends to pay for the first of up to seven 13-foot granite structures with a $100,000 gift from Rand and Mary Louise Petersen. She is a former Board of Regents president whose past support and service is recognized by the UI Petersen Residence Hall.

The university has pitched the proposed columns as wayfinding tools and signs of welcome that will “provide a unique sense of identity, transition, and anticipation for the thousands of students, faculty and staff, community members, and visitors who converge on the University of Iowa campus,” according to a fundraising effort from the UI Center for Advancement.

Some other campuses have welcome structures and symbols — like the arches at Purdue University, the gates at Penn State, and the Ohio State seal inlaid in its brick pedestrian path. The proposed UI monuments — topped with an 18-inch globe and emblazoned with an official UI seal — won’t provide any explicit wayfinding tools like maps or arrows.

The UI didn’t disclose details of the first round of bids it received, and eventually rejected, saying doing so could unfairly advantage competitors. But UI spokeswoman Anne Bassett said the bids were “higher than expected.”

So the university last week issued an amended call for proposals — with changes largely focused on what type of granite it wants and how the granite should arrive.

The UI, in its revised request, said it would accept the stone either in a single slab or pieces, as long as “the pieces be pinned together.”

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The bid documents show the university wants one monument this year and another four to six more in subsequent years. The first installation is planned at a key entrance to the UI campus — at the corner of Church and Dubuque streets — according to Bassett, who said the university will nail down future sites “should additional donor funding be dedicated to the project.”

The rebid project still demands a world globe atop the pentagonal monuments, with North America front-facing, and the word “IOWA” in bronze lettering embedded in the granite base.

In its first bid, the university was open to at least two types of granite — a Barre Gray of Vermont, a topaz gray out of Georgia, or an equivalent. The new bid ditches the options and articulates expressly a preference for Barre Gray.

In a question posted to a UI bid website, a vendor cited “many years in the monument business” in assessing Georgia granite too porous and soft to withstand Iowa’s weather.

Bids for the revised proposal are due July 11. Although the university hasn’t disclosed a comprehensive timeline, officials in response to a bidder question said the project’s tentative start date is Aug. 26.

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

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