With two years left to go to its scheduled opening, it’s already easy to see the contours of the University of Des Moines’ new legacy.
Turner Construction crews put a ceremonial touch on what will ultimately be the first building to be completed on the 88-acre campus on Wednesday when they placed a pristine white beam 39 feet long and two tons. at the top of the structure. .
The importance of the beam comes from the signatures of DMU staff, students and community members who signed the material to put their twist on the institution’s next chapter.
Carried by a crane, the beam sits atop the Innovation Building, which will house food services, laboratories and classrooms and will be the first of four structures on the $ 250 million campus to be completed.
The other buildings include what the university calls the Edge of Advancement building, which will house administrative offices, a health and wellness center with a student wellness center and recreation area, and a school building. campus support with the top three floors used as garage parking.
The campus is built on 88 acres at 8025 Grand Ave. in West Des Moines in an area that has experienced significant development in recent years. Neighbors include the West Campus of Des Moines Area Community College and the MidAmerican Energy Company RecPlex.
University president Angela Franklin said on Wednesday the university would only use about 40 acres of land to start up and build on the rest as it grows.
However, when the new campus opens in fall 2023, it will already have the capacity to educate about 200 more students than the institution’s current downtown campus.
If that’s still not enough, every building has been designed to be flexible to meet future needs, Franklin said.
“We design a space that can change over time,” she said. “You don’t see big classrooms with tiered seats like auditoriums anymore because those have become obsolete – students don’t learn in big auditoriums anymore; there is no more small group interactions.”
Even the three-story parking lot could be converted into a learning space if driving habits change over the next 50 years, she said. Garage levels will be uniform instead of sloping to accommodate other uses.
Franklin said the university was building a new campus from scratch because it was unable to expand in its downtown area. The future campus was not even designed to be a health sciences university, she said. It was a Catholic girls’ school redeveloped to meet the needs of the university, but could not meet the school’s desire to expand.
“We are landlocked,” Franklin said. “To grow – to add even a new curriculum – we couldn’t do it where we are.”
Students and staff can expect new programs and technologies as the campus opens. By 2023, Franklin said she expects the campus to offer a program leading to an occupational therapy degree and a doctorate. in biomedical sciences.
In the Innovation Building, students will have access to a telehealth suite where they will learn how to assess patients by video. Students will also use virtual reality to assist human anatomy labs and classes.
“The idea is that we are creating a new campus with the ability for students to learn with all of the new technology,” Franklin said.
If supply chain issues do not interfere, the president hopes the building can be completed by September 2023 to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the institution’s founding. Turner Construction project manager John Quigley said there were 175 workers at the site as of Wednesday and ultimately more than 300 would be working daily to get the project completed on schedule.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we can’t wait to do it,” he said.
The current University of Des Moines campus is for sale and was last valued at $ 78.7 million, according to the Polk County Assessor’s Office. Franklin said that when the students move to West Des Moines, the only building DMU will keep is its clinic, located at 3200 Grand Ave., which trains students while serving members of the community.
“We wanted to preserve that for the patients who receive their care there and for the students who train there,” she said. “We plan to maintain the clinic’s presence there even if the building is sold.… It keeps us connected to the city where we were founded.”