Six Pack dormitory work underway

CHAMPAIGN – The "Six Pack," as tens of thousands of University of Illinois students have known it, will be history within about two decades.

This summer, the university begins its overhaul of the Six Pack's residence and dining halls, a multiphased, multimillion-dollar project that will transform the area into a more modern, neighborhood-like setting.

The strategic plan for the area, dubbed "Champaign Housing Neighborhood," calls for eventually replacing all the residence halls currently in the Six Pack. Parking will be relocated and covered bike storage will be added, as well as landscape features, such as a rain garden and a gateway.

If all goes well – if there's enough money and the design and construction phases happen on time – the area will be redeveloped in 14 to 20 years.

The first phase of the redevelopment, which starts soon with the demolition of the Illini Orange snack bar, calls for building the $76 million Student Dining and Residential Programs Building and the first wing of a residence hall for 150 students, including students with disabilities.

"The first floor of the (residence hall) wing is designed with Beckwith residents in mind," said Kirsten Ruby, an assistant director of housing for marking. Beckwith Hall accommodates UI students with disabilities. "We're very excited they'll be part of the neighborhood and fully integrated into the campus experience."

"It will provide Beckwith students with an opportunity to participate in the student dining facility and be shoulder-to-shoulder and side-by-side with able-bodied students," said Bill Goodman, assistant dean for administration and technology with the College of Applied Health Sciences.

Goodman said he and other members of the college are also looking forward to the opportunity for members of the general student population to learn about and get to know Beckwith students.

University Housing is working with the College of Applied Health Sciences in its design of the residence hall and its programs.

"We don't want to just design this building in isolation," Ruby said.

Such design considerations include making sure there are appropriate turning radiuses in rooms, creating adjacent space for personal assistants, making sure there are places for students to recharge battery packs for their wheelchairs, and adding roll-in showers and automatic door openers for individual rooms. Another feature of the rooms will be SureHands, which are ceiling-track systems to help students move about the room without their regular wheelchair.

All told, the first floor will have rooms for about 25 students with disabilities, with the ability to add more rooms on the second floor, Goodman said.

The four-story residence hall will also house other students. It will also feature air conditioning, something the current Six Pack dorms do not have.

The Six Pack, as it's commonly called, is bordered roughly by Gregory Drive to the north, Peabody Drive to the south, First Street to the west and Euclid Street to the east. Six residence halls (Forbes, Garner, Weston, Snyder, Scott and Hopkins) are clustered around the site, and within the Six Pack are two dining halls: Peabody and Gregory. The new residence halls will be L-shaped buildings, shifted closer to the streets, with a mini-Quad in the middle.

Built in the 1950s and '60s, the Six Pack residence halls featured a traditional dorm layout, with double rooms and a handful of bathrooms on each floor. The new wing of the residence hall will still have double rooms, but a smaller cluster of rooms will share a bathroom and common space.

To make way for the first phase of the project, the university will soon demolish the one-story Illini Orange building on the north end of the site.

The Illini Orange building throughout the years has been home to a snack bar, a McDonald's, mail boxes and pool tables, Ruby said.

The dining hall and the first wing of the residence hall will be built at the south side of Gregory Drive, just west of Euclid.

The dining hall will be two stories tall, and when completed, it will be the largest student dining facility on campus. The building will house a "marketplace dining concept" with several food stations offering different types of food, a coffee shop, and multipurpose rooms for student organizations to hold meetings or for studying.

"As part of being LEED silver certified, we will recycle 75 percent of the materials in Illini Orange," Ruby said. Contractors have recently been salvaging materials such as glass and steel.

For a building to be certified LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) from the U.S. Green Building Council, it must meet several benchmarks regarding sustainable site development, water usage, materials selection, energy efficiency and indoor environmental quality.

Other environmentally friendly features of the project will be a green roof and high-efficiency heating and air-conditioning systems.

The project is on schedule, and the new building is expected to open in 2010, said Cory Anderson, communications coordinator with Facilities and Services.

Once the new building is up and running, the university will continue the redevelopment by demolishing Gregory and Peabody, the dining halls in the center of the Six Pack.

As an auxiliary unit of the university, the Housing Division will pay for the construction project with the sale of bonds, which are funded by room-and-board fees, Ruby said.

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