A closer look at on-campus construction

Students+walk+by+the+fence+separating+the+construction+zone+on+the+north+side+of+Wright+Hall+between+classes.+Construction+by+Wright+should+be+done+within+two+weeks.+

Catherine Crow

Students walk by the fence separating the construction zone on the north side of Wright Hall between classes. Construction by Wright should be done within two weeks.

MALLORY SMITZ, Staff Writer

Most students knew going into the fall 2021 semester that campus would look a little different compared to the year prior. There would be more in-person classes, more students and fewer masks. However, few predicted what has become one very noticeable change on campus: more chain-link fences marking construction zones.

The northeast section of Redecker Plaza and the area surrounding the north side of Wright Hall have been under construction since this past summer due to failing subgrade infrastructure.

While students still have the ability to access all parts of campus, the fenced-off areas impede on sidewalk space, creating more narrow pathways and requiring detours to reach certain destinations.

Freshman Mikayla Capman was caught off-guard seeing all of the construction when she first moved to campus. 

“It scared me a lot at first when we were taking our tours of the buildings because I didn’t know how I was going to get around the construction, specifically near Wright and the library,” she said. “It really just felt kind of stressful.”  

While some students have had similar concerns regarding the added inconvenience of construction, others are looking on the bright side.

One third-year returning student feels that the construction reflects positively on the university, adding, “Students see the university remodeling, and it makes a good impression because UNI is spending money to make itself better.”

Assistant director of campus services Brian Hadley reassures students that progress on both projects is being made as efficiently as possible. He estimates that the construction near Wright Hall will be complete in the next few weeks. However, the Redecker Plaza project is much more intricate and will likely be finished in a matter of months.

Both projects set out to re-engineer failing subgrade infrastructure in and around the buildings. Hadley details the severity of the problems at Redecker Plaza saying, “The storm drains were failing in that they were undersized so they were not not accepting all the stormwater that they needed to, which was causing water to back up into Redecker Center.”  

Redecker Plaza will eventually be unveiled with less concrete surface area in order to assist the new storm drain system. The visible changes to the area around Wright Hall will include a newly poured sidewalk and new landscaping. 

Many students are curious about the timing of these projects, specifically why they were not taken care of while class was not in session.

To create more clarity around the construction process, Hadley described it in three phases. A project must first be conceptualized, and a team must identify the problem and potential solutions.  

In the second stage, a design firm designs the construction plans, which is oftentimes the longest part of the process.

As the final step, Hadley said, “You have to bid those projects, get contractors on board then construct. It may look like it’s an easy process to say, ‘Hey, fix this. It has to be done,’ but it’s actually quite involved.”

Both the Redecker Plaza and Wright Hall projects have been in the works for over one year.  

While returning students may not be thrilled with having to take additional detours to get to class or being forced to share the sidewalk more than usual, Hadley notes that there wasn’t a realistic way around the start of school during the timing of the projects. 

“I appreciate people’s patience as we try to improve the campus for everyone. We would love nothing more than to be able to do every project over the summer, but during the summer months, everyone is trying to do construction and so there are a limited number of contractors, so you just design and hope for the best.”

Hadley encourages any students with further questions regarding construction at UNI to contact Facilities Management at 319-273-4400. 

“We just want to make sure we have the best possible campus for people that we can,” Hadley said.