Third phase of UI's Ikenberry Commons redevelopment to begin soon

Third phase of UI's Ikenberry Commons redevelopment to begin soon

CHAMPAIGN — Planning for the third phase of the massive Ikenberry Commons redevelopment on the site of the old "Six Pack" residence halls could get under way soon.

University of Illinois trustees will be asked to approve a new $80 million residence hall project on the north side of the Ikenberry Commons site at their March 15 meeting in Urbana. The next step would be selection of an architectural/engineering firm to design the building, said Michael Bass, senior associate vice president and deputy comptroller.

Ikenberry Commons, which will eventually replace all Champaign residence halls, is bordered by East Gregory Drive on the north, East Peabody Drive on the south, South Fourth Street on the east and South First Street on the west in Champaign. Two new halls and a dining facility are already up or under way.

The latest phase will be a 155,000-square-foot building with 480 to 490 beds, to be built near the corner of South First and East Gregory, officials said Monday. Construction would tentatively start in spring 2014, and the target completion date is August 2016.

Bass said the UI will use institutional funds — money held in reserve from overhead on government grants and other sources — to fund initial work, but the project will eventually be funded with revenue bonds repaid by student housing fees.

The new building is consistent with the master plan laid out when the 14-year, multimillion-dollar Ikenberry Commons project was approved, Bass said at a meeting of the board of trustees' audit, budget, finance and facilities committee Monday.

Eventually, the commons will include eight new residence halls to replace the Six Pack (Forbes, Garner, Hopkins, Scott, Snyder and Weston halls) and the Taft-Van Doren halls at Peabody and Fourth. Overall capacity will remain about the same, approximately 3,500 students.

The initial phase, completed in 2010, included a Student Dining and Residential Programs Building and the first section of Nugent Hall, which has state-of-the-art accessibility features. The final two wings at Nugent Hall are scheduled to open next fall.

Construction also began earlier this year on a six-story, suite-style residence hall at First and Peabody that will open in fall 2013. Garner Hall will be demolished this summer, and Forbes Hall will come down in the summer of 2013 once the second hall is completed. The third building will be built near Forbes Hall, said Kirsten Ruby, assistant director of housing for marketing.

Trustees voted in 2008 to name the complex for Stanley O. Ikenberry, who was UI president from 1979 to 1995 and interim president in 2009-2010.

Also Monday, administrators reported that half-price tuition waivers for children of public university employees cost the UI $4.1 million a year overall, three-quarters of that for waivers at the Urbana campus.

The waivers are open to employees who have worked at a state university for at least seven years, and they are "portable," meaning they can be used at any state school, said Randall Kangas, associate vice president for planning and budgeting.

More than 2,000 students use the waivers each year statewide, at a cost of almost $8.2 million, according to figures from the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

A state House committee last week approved a proposal to end the tuition waivers, sending the measure to the full House.

Supporters of the half-tuition waivers say they help attract people to certain low-paying jobs at public universities. The program is not limited to academic employees.

"I'm getting about an email a minute on the threat to tuition waivers," UI President Michael Hogan said at Monday's meeting, which was based in Chicago.

The move comes as legislators are taking heat for the General Assembly scholarship program, which allows them to grant full tuition waivers to students from their districts, an option that some have used to help friends, relatives and political allies. They cost state schools $13.5 million annually, including $9 million at the UI.

Tuition grants to veterans cost the UI about $8.7 million a year, Kangas added.

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