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University of Iowa announces site, developer for new art museum

Location planned for the southeast corner of the Clinton and Burlington streets intersection

The Old Capitol Building between Jessup Hall (left) and MacLean Hall (right) on the Pentacrest on campus of the University of Iowa in Iowa City on Wednesday, April 30, 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)
The Old Capitol Building between Jessup Hall (left) and MacLean Hall (right) on the Pentacrest on campus of the University of Iowa in Iowa City on Wednesday, April 30, 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)

IOWA CITY — A much-anticipated new University of Iowa Museum of Art moved one step closer to reality Wednesday when administrators announced selection of a developer and a site near the heart of downtown Iowa City and the center of campus.

An LLC formed by Iowa City-based Hodge Construction and landowner John Hieronymus — H+H Development Group — has been chosen to develop the new art museum, now planned for the southeast corner of the Clinton and Burlington streets intersection. They will partner with M.A. Mortenson Co. out of Minneapolis to work with the UI on developing the project, targeted at 60,000 square feet.

The developers were chosen from among numerous local, regional and national developers. Mortenson has “significant major arts project experience,” according to UI officials.

Rod Lehnertz, UI director of planning and construction, said the university doesn’t have a timeline for when it will choose a design team, develop a design concept, or have a lease agreement in place. But, he said, the university and developers are beginning that work immediately.

“We have every intent on expediting it,” he said. “We need this back. The students need this back. It’s an important part of the campus.”

A new art museum will replace the old one that was badly damaged in the 2008 flood. The UI managed to remove its art collections from the former museum on Riverside Drive hours before it was flooded, but the building was deemed unsuitable for artwork going forward.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency denied UI appeals for funds to build a new art museum away from the river, prompting officials to explore a public-private partnership for the project. The university did receive FEMA commitment to help restore the former Museum of Art building to its pre-flood condition, and the administration is planning that renovation.

Regarding plans for a new art museum, UI administrators in March issued a request for qualifications from land owners and developers interested in partnering on the project. The proposals were reviewed by a team of stakeholders, who evaluated proposals based on their ability to meet current and future art collection needs and their proximity to campus.

The chosen site sits just east of where the university is constructing its new Voxman Music Building, which is scheduled to open in 2016 and also serves as a replacement facility after the 2008 flood.

Part of what developers will begin discussing immediately is possible mixed-use options for the new art museum site — like residential, business or commercial partnerships, Lehnertz said.

The museum’s site and developer were announced Wednesday during a Board of Regents committee meeting. The full Board of Regents will get an update on the project Thursday, and a lease agreement and design will be presented to the board for approval — once they’re completed.

P. Barry Butler, UI executive vice president and provost, told the committee on Wednesday that one of the strengths of the chosen developer was the location near campus and the new School of Music project. He said the university wants to provide dual-use classroom activities between the two buildings and allow for easy student visits through the facility.

“We have pretty heavy foot traffic, and we want it to be synergistic with the School of Music,” Butler said.

Along with the museum update, Butler announced a new university program — Integrated Outreach With Art, or IOWA. The program partners with museums and institutions throughout the state to provide a wide range of offerings, including art exhibits, loans, education programs, and consulting services.

“This is our ability to rotate things around the state and get art out into the communities,” Butler said.

The partnership includes and encompasses 11 museums and galleries, 16 communities and 50 schools in 99 locations in Iowa. Partners can host UI art exhibitions, take in loans of artwork, welcome educators and experts, or consult with staff on issues and solutions.

Partners include the Sioux City Art Center, the Dubuque Museum of Art, the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, and the Des Moines Art Center.

Sean O’Harrow, director of the UI Museum of Art, said the project means 5 percent of the population of Iowa will be served by fewer than 10 museum professionals, “which by any measure clearly demonstrates one of the most successful programs in the state today.”

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