University of Iowa 10-year master plan includes razing Halsey Hall, Westlawn

The University of Iowa’s 10-year master plan will bring many changes in the coming years, both to the west and east sides of campus. The plan includes razing Halsey Hall and Westlawn and renovating the Iowa Memorial Union.


Grace Kreber

Rodney Lehnertz, the senior vice president for Finance and Operations at the University of Iowa, poses for a portrait on Friday, Feb. 18, 2022.

Kate Perez, News Reporter

The University of Iowa’s 10-year master plan will bring big changes to campus, including razing Halsey Hall and Westlawn and renovating the Iowa Memorial Union.

The university presented its master plan to the state Board of Regents on Jan. 12, where it received approval from the regents to begin planning. Major projects on the UI’s list are the modernizations of the Pentacrest buildings and building a new inpatient tower for UI Hospitals and Clinics.

Rod Lehnertz, UI senior vice president for finance and operations, said with the regents’ permission to begin planning, the university is determining what will be the best projects considering costs and values.

“You start to realize in this 10-year plan how interconnected many of these projects are,” Lehnertz said. “The Iowa Memorial Union ties to Halsey Hall, and dance moving to the former museum building, which opens up a free space… when Halsey is razed, we’d be able to fix a problematic parking ramp, which is the IMU ramp.”

Lehnertz said while the plan makes it look like there will be a lot of construction and work over the next 10 years, the projects being cast over a longer period will make the average amount around $50 million per year in construction.

Most projects have not been fully funded yet and will either need state funding or gifted funding to be worked on, he said.

The regents will vote on the approval of one part of the 10-year plan, the Iowa Wrestling Training Facility, on Wednesday.

“It’s 10 years. Those projects have not been fully figured out. Some you won’t see happen for seven, eight, nine, 10 years, other ones we’re working on now, or we’ll begin with the board’s concurrence,” Lehnertz said. “When we look at smaller projects, these are highlight projects and we’ll all pay attention to them as they go.”

A project essential to the 10-year master plan is the modernization plans for the IMU, Lehnertz said. The building systems and layout are among the aspects that staff are focusing on to make it a more student-centered building.

“There’s a network of places that students go between classes, and the renewal of the union will refortify that as a home base for students in between classes,” he said. “Our president has a priority to make sure that the Iowa Memorial Union is a real home base for the students socially and between classes and for student organization centers.”

The university took federal funding to rebuild the IMU after the 2008 flood, which prevented it from making changes to the building until September 2021. President Barbara Wilson told The Daily Iowan on Feb. 14 she hopes the IMU can be arranged to better serve student mental health.

“People don’t even know that we have a food pantry over there, or a clothing pantry, because they’re hidden in places that people don’t even know about,” Wilson said. “I think the idea is to really support mental health and wellness in one of the spaces that we hope more students will go into on a regular basis once it is remodeled.”

Lehnertz said the Iowa Memorial Union, along with its parking ramp, are among other projects that cannot be worked on until other projects are completed first.

One of the “domino projects” mentioned by Lehnertz was the razing of Halsey Hall. The project will result in the relocation of the dance program into the Old Museum of Art building on the west side of campus and free up space for the IMU parking ramp replacement.

Joe Bilotta, UI director of campus planning, said the relocation of the dance program into the old UI Art Museum building will be better for dancing.

“The type of spaces that are there are ideal for dance because we have some big volume,” Bilotta said. “It won’t satisfy everything dance needs, but about 80 percent of it. The idea is when we can come up with the funds is to repurpose that for dance, [it] then allows us to take down Halsey Hall.”

Brody Ohm, a UI first-year student who attends dance classes at Halsey Hall, said he felt wary of the eventual changes and didn’t want a building dedicated to the fine arts removed.

“The arts in America are already defunded and not recognized,” Ohm said. “By shoving dance into a building and tearing it down shows the lack of respect or care for the arts and dancing.”

Ohm said he enjoys dancing in Halsey Hall because there are enough studio spaces for dancing, and he is worried the Old Museum of Art will not be equipped for dancing.

“There is not enough space and there are no studio spaces,” Ohm said. “By putting dance into something that seems closed and boxed shows how little they think of the program. Boxing in the arts and creative means shows that it means nothing.”

Bilotta said while there are some cool spaces in Halsey Hall, it is a building that is too expensive to transform into a quality dance facility.

Another building like Halsey Hall is Westlawn, which the university plans to eventually raze as well to move UI Student Health into the IMU, Bilotta said.

“The idea is that we’re going to slowly move programs out and when we get it empty, we’ll raze it,” he said. “Our master plan has set aside three potential sites for three buildings that will support the health sciences, nursing, and public health in a collaborative center, and a lot of research.”

Other projects in the plan include the modernization of the rest of the Main Library to look like the first floor, potential students living along the Iowa River on the west side of campus, and a new fieldhouse on Grand Court, Bilotta said.

The UI community can expect to see projects starting in the next couple of years that the designs are being worked on currently, he said.

“The first things the campus will see is a new parking structure north of the transit center up by Kinnick Stadium,” Bilotta said. “Also, at the corner of Melrose and the Grand Avenue, that’ll be a new academic facility, because we’re gonna have to tear down the Speech and Hearing building.”