Spring projects will pave way for new inpatient tower and health sciences academic building
Monday, April 24, 2023
A map of the west side of UI campus

The west side of campus will begin to visibly transform this spring as the University of Iowa starts to make space for a new adult inpatient tower.

After months of planning, UI Health Care, in close collaboration with the university, is ready to turn its vision for a new adult inpatient tower into reality. Before construction on the tower can begin, however, a new academic building will be built and multiple existing structures will be taken down. 

The tower and academic building are part of the university’s broader vision to improve delivery of patient care and education for Iowans, as outlined in its 10-year facilities master plan.

Here’s what you need to know about these upcoming projects: 

New adult inpatient tower to improve patient access to care and medical education 

The lifesaving and life-changing health care provided by UI Hospitals & Clinics is in high demand. UI Hospitals & Clinics serves the entire state of Iowa and often has adult inpatient bed occupancy rates that are above industry standards. This affects operations and leaves more than 2,000 Iowans waiting for a transfer each year.

Additionally, many of the buildings on UI Hospitals & Clinics main campus are at or approaching 50 years of age. The campus is in significant need of modernization to support the academic medical center’s tripartite mission of education, research, and patient care. 

To address these issues, a new adult inpatient tower will be built on the north side of the UI Hospitals &Clinics main campus, currently occupied by Hospital Parking Ramp 1, the water tower, and the Wendell Johnson Speech and Hearing Center. Construction on the new tower is expected to begin in 2025 after these structures are taken down.

The new inpatient tower and adjacent multi-story concourse will create a welcoming front door to the UI Hospitals & Clinics campus and is expected to include features such as: 

  • New entrances to the main hospital for patients, staff, and other visitors. 
  • Space for the ancillary patient care services such as pathology, radiology, and pharmacy. 
  • An inpatient surgery platform with multiple operating rooms. 
  • Multiple floors of inpatient units (48 beds per floor, each composed of two 24-bed units).  
  • Shelled spaces to allow for future growth. 
  • Public amenity space with full-glass views of Kinnick Stadium and the surrounding Iowa City landscape. 
  • Expansion of Hospital Parking Ramp 2. 
  • A support services tunnel connecting to UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital. 
  • A concourse connecting the new tower to UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital. 
  • A skywalk to Hospital Parking Ramp 3 and West Campus Transportation Center.  
  • Main hospital pantry, dining rooms, and retail space.  
  • Multiple spaces supporting back-of-house functions—such as a new central hospitalwide kitchen, central sterile, materials management, and new facilitywide loading docks. 

Made possible by a $70 million gift from the Richard O. Jacobson Foundation, the new inpatient tower will also be funded by patient revenue and Medicaid directed payments. 

Health sciences academic building will fuel student success 

A key project that will make room for the new inpatient tower—a new health sciences academic building—will contribute to student success at Iowa by providing state-of-the-art learning space and allowing for future growth in three of the university’s most popular and top-ranked programs. 

The building will be built south of Slater Residence Hall and west of Grand Avenue Court, adjacent to the Gerdin Athletic Learning Center. Because the Wendell Johnson Speech and Hearing Center on Hawkins Drive will need to be removed to make way for the inpatient tower, the top-ranked Communication Sciences and Disorders program will move to the new academic building. Joining it will be the fast-growing Health and Human Physiology department, and the No. 4-ranked Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences department. 

“The new academic building will go a long way toward helping the university carry out its missions of educating our students, recruiting world-class faculty, and providing the state of Iowa with health care professionals for its aging population,” says Rod Lehnertz, senior vice president for finance and operations. “In addition, the programs that will be located in the building are some of the most well-regarded in the country and among the fastest-growing programs offered to our students.” 

Iowa has been a leader in communication sciences and disorders for more than a century, when pioneers such as Lee Edward Travis and Carl Seashore helped develop speech and hearing science as a discipline of study. Today, the university boasts a No. 2 ranking in audiology and a No. 6 ranking in speech-language pathology, according to U.S. News &World Report, along with the state’s only Doctor of Audiology program. Many graduates of these programs enter the Iowa health care workforce to support the state’s aging population. 

Health and Human Physiology is the largest department within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, with more than 2,200 undergraduates and 100 graduate students enrolled for fall 2022. The department has six undergraduate areas of study, including the fast-growing Sport and Recreation Management with an enrollment of more than 800 students. To continue to grow, the program, currently housed in the aging Field House, needs additional and more modern space. 

The new academic building also will provide critical space for the Carver College of Medicine’s No. 4-ranked Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences department, which enrolls about 150 doctorate students in the professional degree program. With 33% enrollment growth and a nearly eight-fold increase in grant funding since 2006, the department is now beyond capacity in its current home within the Medical Education Building, which was built in 1919. 

Relocating the water tower 

In September, the university’s utility partner, ENGIE North America, will begin construction on a new water tower northwest of the football practice fields. The water tower, which provides water storage for the entire campus, is expected to be completed by the end of 2024. It will increase the amount of water storage for campus and will replace the current water tower along Hawkins Drive, which will be torn down in spring 2025 to make room for a new patient care tower.