Ninety-eight years ago, in 1925, the Iowa Memorial Union (IMU) opened, providing University of Iowa students a place to gather, participate in campus activities, and deepen their Hawkeye connections. As the IMU prepares for its 100th birthday, the university is looking to its future and how the building can continue to serve as a hub for student activity and support.
Planned renovations to the IMU beginning in summer 2024 will add a new Well-Being and Mental Health Center, bringing together clinical health services, mental health counseling, wellness programs, and student care resources, such as the food pantry and case management for students experiencing emergencies, in one place. Meeting space, ballrooms, and multipurpose rooms will be updated, renovated, or added, as will food service options.
After years of research, planning, and considering multiple options for creating a campus well-being and mental health center, the UI identified repurposing space within the IMU as the most practical, timely, and cost-efficient plan. The current Iowa House Hotel, which will close in early 2024, will be converted into space for services such as student counseling and student care, and be near other student services already located in the IMU. All current reservations and contracts at the Iowa House Hotel will be honored.
“Bringing so many of the well-being and mental health services for students into one place will allow them to address multiple facets of their physical and mental health needs at once,” said Sarah Hansen, vice president for student life. “Co-locating such services in the center of campus makes them more accessible and ensures our students have the support they need to excel in their Iowa experience.”
Reinvesting in the IMU also addresses the aging building’s need for updates. The building’s estimated deferred maintenance is $55 million, and replacing the existing building would cost an estimated $245 million. The proposed renovation is estimated to cost $81.1 million.
Funding for the project, which is part of the university’s 10-year facilities master plan, will be covered primarily by a new student fee of $100 to $120 per semester. The new fee was proposed and supported by Undergraduate Student Government and Graduate and Professional Student Government and will take effect about the time that construction begins.
Providing a central location for students to access support services helps the university achieve its Strategic Plan 2022-2027 goal of embedding well-being and mental health into all aspects of campus culture to better support students, faculty, and staff.
The renovations are expected to be completed in two phases to allow for continued use of as many spaces as possible during the process, with the goal of completing phase one for the IMU’s 100th anniversary in 2025. The cost of the first phase of the project is estimated at $63.7 million, and $17.4 million in phase two.
Once the project is developed, it will go before the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, for design and budget approval.