University of Iowa replaces student union hotel with ‘mental health center’

A cafeteria, shown here in 2015, is one of the facilities for students on the ground floor of the Iowa Memorial Union on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City. The floor was closed after a flood in 2008 and reopened in 2015. (The Gazette)

(File photo) Iowa Memorial Union on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City.

IOWA CITY — By the time the University of Iowa student union celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2025, administrators expect the campus hub to be deep in an $81.1 million renovation, including its historic Iowa House for a new “campus well-being and mental Hotel transfer is included. Health Center.”

“The current Iowa House hotel, which will close in late 2023 or early 2024, will be converted into space for services such as student counseling and student care, and will be near other student services already located at IMU,” UI According to the Office of Strategic Communications.

Renovation of the 326,729-square-foot Iowa Memorial Union — built in 1925 at the corner of Jefferson and Madison Streets adjacent to Hubbard Park — will begin in the summer of 2024 and will unite a range of wellness and mental health services under one roof , including clinical care and counselling.

Other wellness programming and student care resources planned for the new center include a UI food pantry and case management services for students experiencing emergencies, according to the UI Office of Strategic Communication.

“Bringing so many wellness and mental health services for students into one place allows them to address many aspects of their physical and mental health needs at once,” Sarah Hansen, UI vice president for student life, said in a statement. Will get.” “Co-location of such services in the heart of campus makes them more accessible and ensures that our students have the support they need to excel in their Iowa experience.”

The planned IMU renovation — coming a decade after UI’s union was restored destroyed in the 2008 flood — includes updated meeting space, ballrooms, multi-purpose rooms and food service options.

The total project cost is $81.1 million, divided into two phases “to allow for the continued use of as many spaces as possible during the process.” UI officials hope to complete the $63.7 million first phase in time for the union’s 100th birthday in 2025.

Phase II is expected to spend the remaining $17.4 million – with the UI planning to spend a total of $20 million in the upcoming budget year; $40 million in FY 2025; and $20 million in the 2026 budget year, according to the UI’s five-year facilities plan.

Project funding will come from gifts, revenue bonds and a new student fee of $100 to $120 per semester. The university’s Undergraduate Student Government and Undergraduate and Professional Student Government proposed and supported the fee, to take effect around the start of construction.

mental health needs

Centralizing and unifying student mental health and wellness services is a key tenet of the UI’s 2022-27 Strategic Plan, which seeks to drive “holistic wellness and success” by providing a broad foundation of support for individuals at all stages of their relationship with the university. promotes. ,

“Its people are the University of Iowa’s most important resource,” according to the plan, launched at a time of heightened awareness of mental health after a pandemic that has upended higher education and forced college-going students into their early teens and early 20s. interrupted.

According to UI Plan, “the pandemic has forced the university to engage with new ways of teaching and working, and highlights the importance of a focus on health and wellness.” “These experiences informed a range of strategies to better support the success and well-being of university people as individuals and as a community.”

Although UI’s enrollment has declined in recent years, its university counseling service has seen an expansion — if not an explosion — in demand for services, forcing colleges and residence halls to embed providers, more group and online. offering services, and seeking more mental health-specific state support.

Within UI Student Health, psychiatric visits have increased in recent years despite a decline in demand for other services. UI Student Health reported 3,400 psychiatric visits in fiscal year 2022 — up from less than 3,000 in 2019. According to a recent student health report, UI psych visits have increased by 40 percent.

The university – after researching, planning and reviewing several options for a campus “wellness and mental health centre” – identified the renovated location at the IMU as the “most practical, timely and cost-efficient plan”.

IMU History

The Iowa House Hotel offers a range of double, queen and king rooms and suites with river views and capacities of two to six guests, costing from $95 to $220 per night depending on the time of year. Amenities include complimentary access to the campus fitness center, campus shuttle, and all IMU services.

The Union – which opened in 1925 – has offered some form of food, housing and on-campus employment for nearly a century in existence. Over the years, it has evolved into an entertainment venue – offering sports, hosting concerts, and welcoming speakers, politicians, and the ruling circle.

Union opened a non-alcoholic nightclub in the 1930s and added a bowling alley, snack bar, and billiards space in 1955. The 2008 flood destroyed Union – like so many buildings on campus – and UI unveiled its restored IMU in 2015, which includes an updated food court, coffee shop and learning commons.

By reinvesting in the union, UI is also addressing deferred maintenance needs at the aging building – adding up to $55 million. Replacing the entire union would cost approximately $245 million, UI officials reported, citing the decision as $81.1 million in upgrades.

Vanessa Miller covers higher education for The Gazette.

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