Planning will proceed on biosciences building, residence hall

Planning will proceed on several major building projects – including a residence hall and a biosciences facility – following an initial green light from the state Board of Regents Feb. 6. The board approved Iowa State's building projects request list on a 9-0 vote, although regent Ruth Harkin expressed concern about giving the residence department "the opportunity to increase its long-term bond debt."

Harkin said the board lacks a policy guiding on-campus student housing. "We don't know what the needs are at UNI or the University of Iowa, but we're considering increasing housing at Iowa State, which already has more housing," she said.

Board president Bruce Rastetter said he anticipates that the recently under-way efficiency study of the three universities will include student housing.

By spring 2016, residence director Pete Englin said he hopes to open a residence hall east of Buchanan Hall on Lincoln Way that would house approximately 700 students. By comparison, Buchanan Hall houses about 410 students. An early price tag is about $50 million, to be financed through dormitory revenue bonds.

Englin said that since July, the university added apartments for 720 students in Frederiksen Court and leased and operated off-campus apartments for another 500 students. To meet demand, it still opened fall semester with 430 students housed in residence hall dens.

The board approved a request to renew the off-campus leases for 2014-15 and lease more new apartment buildings in southwest Ames to house 564 students.

Englin told board members that the pattern of record-breaking freshman classes impacts his ability to serve students who want to return to a residence hall (not apartment) – as many as 2,000 students each year. He also said the residence department houses fewer than 300 graduate students, but the demand is there to do more for that population.

"What we offer is different from what students can get off campus, and that message resonates with students and parents," Englin said. Retention and graduation rates are higher for students who live in campus housing, he said.

Senior vice president for business and finance Warren Madden reported that the residence department, which is retiring about $10 million in bond debt each year, has the revenue stream to support another residence hall.

Regent Robert Downer asked that, as planning for the hall moves forward, financial projections and debt payment include the whole residence system, not just this building.

Biosciences facilities

The board also gave permission to begin formal planning for two biosciences facilities: A teaching and research facility at the northwest corner of Stange Road and Pammel Drive (current site of Industrial Education II) and an addition to the east side of Bessey Hall that provides introductory and advanced teaching spaces. The project will renovate spaces in a handful of other buildings and eliminate about $5.8 million in deferred maintenance needs.

"You've toured our facilities. You know this is important to Iowa State," Madden told board members.

He said the biosciences at Iowa State involve about 450 faculty members from more than 25 departments and more than 6,000 students, two-thirds of whom remain in Iowa to work after graduation.

The project's estimated cost of $80 million includes $25 million in private gifts and a proposed $55 million in state appropriations (including $2 million in planning funds in FY15).

Football stadium, Scheman building

Plans to replace the south end of Jack Trice Stadium and improve the area south to Reiman Gardens also may proceed. By the home opener in fall 2015, the athletics department intends to "bowl in" the south end of the stadium with permanent seating – at least some of it with an indoor option – and replace the video/sound board. Madden said the stadium capacity goal is about 60,000 seats. Currently, the stadium has a capacity of just under 57,000 seats, but about 12,000 of those are counted as hillside seating.

Alumnus Roy Reiman and his wife Bobbi provided a lead gift of $25 million for the estimated $60 million project. Madden said approximately half is for the stadium, the other half will improve the entrance to Reiman Gardens and add parking to address game-day demand.

Pending Ames voters approving a $19 million bond referendum on March 4, Iowa State can plan for a renovation/upgrade ($6.5 million) and addition ($32.5 million) to the Scheman Building at the Iowa State Center. The university would split construction costs with the city of Ames. The key feature of the addition would be about 30,000 square feet of high-ceilinged "flat floor space."

The university and city would jointly operate the expanded building (similar to its joint operation of the ice arena), and the Ames Convention and Visitors Bureau has pledged to provide operating subsidies estimated at up to $250,000 annually.

Madden said it's in Iowa State's interest to provide modern meeting facilities for groups that want to be affiliated with the university, particularly youth groups who are attracted to Ames' non-urban environment. He told board members Iowa State has no plans to do this project without the city's involvement.

Friley dining center

Finally, planning will begin to convert the former dining room and kitchen at Friley Hall into a food court, adding an east entrance. ISU Dining director Nancy Keller said the estimated $5 million project would help ease the demand for food service on central campus, particularly at midday. She estimated student diners there might be 75 percent residence hall tenants and 25 percent off-campus students. Currently, about 4,000 off-campus students have campus food plans, she said.

Budgets approved for Marston, Lagomarcino projects

The board gave its final green light to renovation plans and a budget ($24.1 million) for Marston Hall, the home of the College of Engineering. The plan reserves the two lower floors for high-traffic uses, such as classrooms and a student services mall, and moves the college's administrative units, including the dean's office, to the upper two floors. The project will eliminate all of the $2.5 million in deferred maintenance needs in Marston. The proposed financing of the project is $15.9 million in university funds and $8.2 million in private gifts.

Madden said Marston will be vacated this summer through summer 2015.

Interior demolition work began in early January in Lagomarcino Hall's north wing to consolidate administrative offices, advising offices, classrooms and support spaces for the School of Education around a new entrance and lobby. The board approved another revised budget ($5.4 million, an increase of about $340,000) to reflect construction and furnishing costs for additional spaces.