by TARYN RIPPLE
As students and staff make their return to Drake University for the semester, they will undoubtedly take notice of the construction zone on the edge of campus. There are several of these projects in development near the Drake campus.
The area of University Avenue between 25th and 31st Streets is to be the site of construction for the foreseeable future. The job is already underway; parts of the street and sidewalk have been excavated.
“The construction on that side [of the university] is a City of Des Moines project,” Jolene Schmidt of Drake Facilities Planning and Management said in an email. Schmidt, who is the director of capital projects, further explained that the aim of this undertaking is to separate sewer and stormwater lines, an endeavor that is set to be finished by Dec. 1. Additionally, Drake will be installing new lighting fixtures along the street, and the road will be narrowed down to two lanes. The plans also allow for new bus stops and a bike lane.
In addition to this renovation project, a number of new buildings will be added to University Avenue, including businesses like a hotel, a restaurant and retail outlets. Drake has partnered with Nelson Construction & Development to accomplish such an endeavor. The goal is to improve University Avenue and to help Drake connect with the community surrounding its campus. This project is set to be completed in May of 2020.
Roadside improvements and more businesses are not the only new developments in store for the Drake campus. At the beginning of 2019, the Harkin Institute for Public Policy and Citizen Engagement announced plans to build an expansion on the Drake campus; the corner of 28th Street and University Avenue is to be the site of an additional location for a new Harkin Institute building.
Though construction on the new Harkin building is not yet underway, the project has generated a lot of buzz. DU Bulldog Catholic faculty advisor Professor Dorothy Pisarski expressed concern for students’ safety when walking from campus to St. Catherine of Siena church, a route that will go through the construction zone.
The three houses to the west of the church that extend into the University parking lot, which were originally slated to be demolished, will now be relocated to the Sherman Hill district, a neighborhood just southeast of the Drake campus.
“The level of concern about students and community members walking safely to St. Kate’s is greatly increased due to the excavation and moving work required to relocate those houses,” Pisarski said.
It is difficult to guarantee complete safety in regards to a big construction project, but Schmidt of Facilities and Management says that the department always takes precautions to protect students as well as the general public.
Construction on the Harkin project will not commence until these houses are relocated. Though there is presently not an exact date for the excavation process, builders hope to begin work on the new Harkin building as early as next month.