Iowa City Press-Citizen: UI Mulls $40M Engineering Expansion

Saturday, June 9, 2012

By Josh O'Leary
Iowa City Press-Citizen

A new College of Engineering building is among the long-term construction projects being weighed by the University of Iowa, according to preliminary plans that went before the Iowa state Board of Regents this week.

In a list of anticipated capital improvement projects for the coming fiscal year, UI’s plans include a $40 million undertaking labeled only as “new building” for the Seamans Center for the Engineering Arts and Sciences. Such a project would mark the engineering building’s first significant expansion since 2001.

UI spokesman Tom Moore said the idea of adding to the College of Engineering’s facilities is in its earliest stages, and the price tag is only a rough estimate. He said it is one of several capital improvement projects UI may take before the regents for approval in fiscal year 2013.

“Essentially this is a list of potential projects we may want to discuss with them, or we may not,” Moore said. “The cost estimates right now are very much based on pre-model cost estimates — if you’re going to do a project like this, what’s the general ballpark figure? The next step if we did bring these forward is we would take them to the board and say, ‘We want your approval to plan these projects.’ At that point, we would put more structure to the exact cost, square footage and those other details.”

Asked if the project would call for the renovation or expansion of the existing Seamans Center, or the construction of a new and separate building, Moore said it was too early to provide details.

The engineering building, 103 S. Capital St., was built in 1906. In 2001, UI concluded a $31 million modernization project — the facility’s first in 30 years — that preserved much of the original building while adding classrooms, labs, and study and meeting areas. The building was named for Gary Seamans and his wife, Camille, who were the top individual contributors.

Moore said significant growth in the College of Engineering’s undergraduate enrollment has prompted talks of further expansion. Since 2002, the college’s undergraduate enrollment has risen by 43 percent, from 1,159 to 1,667 this past academic year.

“So we have to kind of look into the future and say, ‘OK, if this trend continues, how are we going to accommodate all of these students?’” Moore said. “So we need to talk about do we need to expand the engineering center? And that’s something we want to discuss with the board at some point in the future.”

UI anticipates pursuing several other notable new construction projects this coming fiscal year including:

• A $15 million addition to the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Center featuring an indoor playing field with artificial turf.

• A new $90 million pharmacy building.

• A $31 million vivarium at the UI Research Park on the Oakdale campus.

• A $20 million psychology and learning center building.