Wednesday, June 28, 2023

The University of Iowa is in the beginning stages of planning for the Department of Dance to vacate aging Halsey Hall and relocate to the Performing Arts Annex, the renamed former art museum that sits among other arts buildings on the west side of the Iowa River.

The move—proposed as part of the university’s next 10 years of facilities projects—will enable the university to initiate a separate collection of facilities projects that directly support the Strategic Plan 2022-2027 priorities, including promoting holistic well-being and success, enhancing excellence in teaching and learning, and providing a welcoming and inclusive environment.

“Relocating the Department of Dance to the Performing Arts Annex will provide modern spaces tailored to the needs of students and faculty and will encourage collaboration with other performing and visual arts programs located along North Riverside Drive,” says Rod Lehnertz, senior vice president for finance and operations.

Halsey Hall was built as a women’s gymnasium and carries $7 million in deferred maintenance. Among its deficiencies:

  • It was not built or designed to be used for dance.
  • The gymnasium features one studio that is too large for most dance classes, while other studios in the building are too small.
  • The building lacks gathering spaces for students, including warmup and lobby space.
  • The building’s mechanical and electrical systems are at capacity, and it has accessibility issues.
  • The footprint of Halsey constricted land used to build the Iowa Memorial Union Parking Ramp, which resulted in a ramp that is difficult to access and use despite its serving as the primary parking place for visitors and prospective students and families.

The Department of Dance is the state’s only comprehensive university dance program, offering rigorous traditional ballet training and other diverse styles of contemporary, modern, and global dance. The department emphasizes creativity and collaboration, giving both graduate and undergraduate students the chance to choreograph, research, and perform works with faculty members and professional guest artists.

A $3 million award from the university’s public-private partnership (P3, or Strategic Initiatives Fund) will provide the funding needed to begin determining the improvements that need to be made to the Performing Arts Annex and to create a phased renovation plan that likely will span several years. The final budget and timeline for the complete project will be determined by the number of renovation phases and future funding sources.

Vacating Halsey Hall a key enabling project

Vacating Halsey Hall is a key enabling project in a cluster of other facilities projects:

  • In the coming months, renovations focusing on student support, resources, and activities will begin at the Iowa Memorial Union. A new well-being and mental health center will be added, bringing together in one space clinical health services, mental health counseling, wellness programs, and student care resources, such as the food pantry and case management for students experiencing emergencies. Meeting space, ballrooms, and multipurpose rooms will be updated, renovated, or added, as will food service options.
  • Once the Department of Dance and other occupants move out of Halsey Hall, the building will be razed. At that time, the adjacent IMU Parking Ramp also will be removed, making way for a new, modern parking ramp that will serve the needs of campus visitors, prospective students and families, and those using the IMU across the street.
  • The new parking ramp will improve access to the academic and social core of campus. Direct connections to the IMU and T. Anne Cleary Walkway will improve accessibility for people with mobility issues and will increase safety.

The university’s ability to move forward on the Performing Arts Annex renovation was made possible by a recent change in how P3 money will be distributed for FY2024. The new approach allows the university to prioritize crucial improvements to educational spaces by devoting $5 million of the $15 million disbursement to improving education infrastructure on campus.