Renovation proposed for Chem Annex

Renovation proposed for Chem Annex

URBANA — An 80-year-old chemistry building on the UI Quad would get a comprehensive update under a proposed renovation project.

The campus is planning a $22.9 million renovation of the Chemistry Annex, 601 S. Mathews Ave., U, on the east side of the Quad.

The Chem Annex was built in 1931 at a cost of $335,000 to serve undergraduate chemistry students. It's directly south of Noyes Lab, and the two are connected via an underground tunnel.

The campus replaced the roof and made some electrical updates in recent years, but this would be the first comprehensive renovation in the building's history, said Joe Vitosky, assistant vice president for capital programs and real estate services.

The project would update laboratories and support areas throughout the 52,000-square-foot building, and provide a small addition to enclose an exposed fire staircase and electrical equipment on the northeast corner of the building, he said.

The renovation would be funded with money from the campus Academic Facilities Maintenance Assessment Fund, which comes from a $300-per-semester student fee; and "institutional funds," composed primarily of money set aside from federal grants for overhead costs.

UI trustees will be asked to vote on the project next week. A board committee reviewed the proposal on Monday.

The panel reviewed several other items, including:

— A pension update from President-designate Robert Easter, who said it's likely that employees and the university will be asked to pick up the state's contribution to the State Universities Retirement System. Easter said he and other higher education leaders met several days ago with state Senate President John Cullerton and state House Speaker Michael Madigan's staff.

Currently, employees pay 8 percent of their salaries toward their pensions and the state is supposed to pay about 12 percent, but it has typically fallen short. Under plans under consideration Springfield, employees would pay another 2 or 3 percent, and universities would pick up the other 9 to 10 percent, Easter said.

"That would be a budget hit for us," as well as a burden for employees, Easter said.

— A new $7.4 million boiler for Abbott Power Plant in Champaign, which provides energy to campus. The money would replace a natural-gas powered boiler that is out of service and is used for parts to keep the other two gas boilers operating, Vitosky said.

Trustee Pam Strobel raised questions about a contract to buy up to $9 million worth of coal next year for Abbott's coal-fired boilers, given the UI's long-term plan to switch to natural gas, which is cheaper, or other sustainable fuels. A Climate Action Plan adopted in 2010 calls for the campus to eliminate coal steam production and "cease all investments intended to extend the life of coal-fueled systems" at Abbott.

Officials said the campus must continue to keep Abbott running as it transitions to more efficient energy sources and delivery systems, as outlined in the plan. The UI is using less coal each year, and the proposed contract 25 percent less than the previous one, officials said.

— Hiring a construction manager for a third residence hall at Ikenberry Commons, the new housing development on the site of the old "six-pack" residence halls in Champaign. A new dining hall and the first section of Nugent Hall are already open, and Nugent's second phase will be finished this summer. A second residence hall is due to be completed by fall 2013.

The third residence hall is to be built at the corner of First and Gregory streets. Trustees will vote next week on a $3.47 million construction contract with Turner Construction Co. of Chicago. The money would come from Housing Division operations, to be repaid with revenue bonds.

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