UI officials: Proposed $1.2 billion master plan 'a feasible approach'

UI officials: Proposed $1.2 billion master plan 'a feasible approach'

URBANA — New buildings and renovation projects envisioned in a proposed campus master plan carry a price tag of about $1.2 billion — not unrealistic given the University of Illinois' donor base and track record, top UI officials say.

The proposed master plan, unveiled last spring, provides a flexible blueprint for campus growth and development over the next decade and beyond.

If the UI were to build every new project identified in the plan, the cost would be about $628 million, said Michael Bass, senior associate vice president and deputy comptroller. The proposed renovation projects could cost another $573 million, for a total of $1.2 billion, he said.

"That's a big number, but it's over 10 years," Trustee Ramon Cepeda said after a presentation at the board's Audit, Budget, Finance and Facilities Committee meeting earlier this week. The full board will vote on it next week.

It's comparable to what the campus has spent on building projects over the last 10 years, said UI President Tim Killeen.

Among them: the $170 million renovation of State Farm Center, the $121 million renovation of Memorial Stadium, the $90 million Electrical and Computer Engineering Building, and three new residence halls costing at least $75 million each.

"This is a feasible approach. It's very exciting," Killeen said.

With hundreds of thousands of alumni worldwide, the figure is "doable," Trustee Don Edwards said, but it will likely have to come from fundraising.

"We're going to have to get very active on the fund-raising for obvious reasons," Killeen said. "We can't expect all of these to be done by state funding, if it continues to erode."

The campus kicked off a $2.25 billion campaign last month, part of a $3.1 billion fundraising effort by the UI system.

"We should be as ambitious as possible when it comes to raising money from our alums and reinvesting it in the future of Illinois students," Edwards said.

Some additions and modifications have been made to the plan since a round of public hearings last spring, but no major changes, said Mary Jukuri, campus planner for the consulting firm SmithGroupJJR. The firm was paid $1.5 million for the planning effort that began in January 2016.

50 renovated buildings

The new version includes two proposed autonomous shuttle routes — a north-south one along Mathews Avenue, as originally proposed, and a second one along Peabody Drive.

"People liked the idea and said we need an east-west one," Jukuri said.

The routes would connect several under-utilized campus parking garages and lots on the periphery of campus with major buildings such as the Beckman Institute on the north and the Institute for Genomic Biology on south-central campus, she said.

Planners suggested that the UI work with the cities to explore the autonomous routes as a pilot program. Jukuri said other routes might be more suitable, "but we put the idea out there."

The master plan is designed to improve access and connections between different parts of campus, reinforce the campus core, enhance the quality of student life, and strengthen the organization of the campus through different "neighborhoods."

Campus boundaries would not expand, with an emphasis on in-fill projects and "net zero growth," meaning the overall square footage wouldn't increase. How? By improving the utilization of existing facilities, renovating where possible, razing obsolete buildings, and trying to reduce the demand for new square footage — "reduce, reuse, recycle and renew," Jukuri said.

The plan recommends renovating more than 50 academic, research and student life buildings in coming years, she said, but new buildings are also planned.

"There are a number of facilities that are outdated and we can achieve greater energy efficiency and utilization with new, state-of-the-art facilities on campus," she said.

Bigger sciences corridor

The plan shows a new ice arena just west of the Activities and Recreation Center, to replace the aging UI Ice Arena, but that location could change, Jukuri said. The Division of Intercollegiate Athletics is considering the addition of hockey as a varsity sport, and a developer has proposed a multiuse arena for downtown Champaign.

"We wanted to leave some future flexibility," Jukuri said.

Other components:

— An expanded sciences corridor along Mathews and Goodwin avenues, including a new science lab at Goodwin and Illinois. A building initially proposed for the corner of Goodwin and Green, where a student apartment complex is now located, has been pushed farther north along the Boneyard Creek. The plan also shows a potential interdisciplinary lab on Springfield Avenue, east of the Grainger Library.

— Improvements to student buildings, including a huge renovation of the Illini Union, build-out of the Ikenberry Commons residential area, expansion of Lincoln Avenue Residence Halls and Illinois Street Residence Halls, additions to the cultural centers, renovation of the UI Library, and a repurposing of Kenney Gym as a recreational center.

— New in-fill development on west campus, including two new buildings on current parking lots north of the Armory, framing a small "west Quad."

— The long-term redevelopment of Orchard Downs with a traditional city-block design and streets that connect to surrounding neighborhoods so it's not so isolated.

— A "Legacy Corridor" to consolidate several agriculture programs along Lincoln Avenue, from Windsor to Curtis roads. That would include a new Feed Mill, a top campus priority, and an events center in the UI Arboretum.

— An "Illinois Experience" from Lincoln Avenue to the Quad along Illinois Street to welcome visitors, including an Arts Park connecting Krannert to the Spurlock Museum and Alumni Center.

— Build-out of athletics facilities, including a performance center, revamped south gateway to Memorial Stadium, and a new Olympic sports arena.

The full report will be available online once it has been approved by trustees, she said. The board meets Thursday in Chicago.