Monday, November 6, 2023

Editor's note: The Iowa Board of Regents approved the project at its Nov. 15 meeting in Cedar Falls.

The first new road to be built on campus in more than a decade will connect Newton Road to the fountain entrance of University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, a project necessary to make way for construction of the new inpatient tower.

The Board of Regents, State of Iowa, will consider the project at its meeting Nov. 15-16 in Cedar Falls.

The road will be built between Hospital Parking Ramp 1 and the General Hospital pavilion, which will mean the temporary relocation of the VA Loop bus stop, which serves about 500 transit stops per day.

“We understand this will mean an additional disruption for some who commute to our health care campus, but we encourage everyone to try to remember that it’s a temporary disruption that will result in significant improvements,” says Rod Lehnertz, senior vice president for finance and operations. “We know these disruptions can be frustrating, and we will explore ways to keep the impact to a minimum for our faculty, staff, patients, and visitors.”

Map of the new road

While the construction will temporarily cause longer commute times for some people who take the bus to campus, the stop will remain open during construction.

When complete, the project will include an improved bus stop, loop, and new roundabout. The bus loop will be able to accommodate up to five buses at a time and allow riders to easily identify which direction a bus is traveling. Eventually, the road will serve as an additional exit for Hospital Parking Ramp 2. The project also will allow the university to consider improvements for bicycling and walking paths in the area.

Construction will begin in the spring with relocation of utilities and is expected to be substantially complete by fall 2024. Projected cost is $17.5 million.

Enabling projects

The new road is one of several projects that need to be completed before construction on the new inpatient tower can begin.

Because the inpatient tower will be built on the footprint of existing Hospital Parking Ramp 1 and the Wendell Johnson Speech and Hearing Center, the new road is needed to ensure efficient access to UI Hospitals & Clinics.

Other projects that will make way for the new inpatient tower include:

  • Construction of the new Hawkeye Ramp. A 985-space, five-level parking ramp is under construction on a portion of Parking Lot 43 north of Kinnick Stadium. This ramp will replace the aging Hospital Ramp 1, which will be torn down to make way for the inpatient tower.
  • Construction of the new Health Sciences Academic Building, underway now at South Grand and Melrose avenues, just south of Slater Residence Hall. Because the Wendell Johnson Speech and Hearing Center on Hawkins Drive will need to be removed to make way for the inpatient tower, the 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 Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences department. 
  • Relocation of the water tower near the main entrance of UI Hospitals & Clinics. A new water tower will be constructed northwest of the football practice fields, increasing the amount of water storage for campus. Once the new water tower is online, the current tower will be torn down.

About the inpatient tower

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.

The university recently selected the construction manager at risk and an architectural design firm for the new tower through its competitive bid process. Read the update here

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

“The new adult inpatient tower will be an important part of our campus and fulfilling our mission to care for Iowans for generations to come,” says Denise Jamieson, vice president for medical affairs and dean of the Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine. 

The tower will be built on the north side of UI Hospitals & Clinics on the footprint 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 UI Hospitals & Clinics 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. 

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