Beyond the Blueprints: Central High's new Commons area

Beyond the Blueprints: Central High's new Commons area

A new, occasional series looking at what's ahead for Unit 4 schools, by News-Gazette education reporter LYNDSAY JONES. TODAY: The Commons area at Central High.

The libraries at Central and Centennial high schools buzzed with activity this week as community members filed past new images that detailed the final design plans of Unit 4's $183.4 million referendum project. The school board planned the event to generate public feedback on the design concepts before voting on whether to OK the plan Jan. 22.

In a word, Champaign parent Laura Bleill, whose sixth-grade daughter plans to attend Central, said the concept looked "gorgeous."

"I think it's respectful of keeping the vision of an urban school," she said. "It gets more and more real with every event like this."

Four takeaways from images of the new Commons area that will be added to Central:


Large windows are about more than aesthetics. By flooding the space with natural light, architects hope to create a healthier environment indoors for students and staff.


It's more than just a glorified hallway. Various seating options will be available, as well as untouched open spaces. Architects say the open areas could be venues for informal music or theater events as well.


Those stairs aren't just for walking. Representatives of the two architecture firms responsible for executing the vision, Perkins+Will and IGW, said they knew students enjoy sitting on large stairs. So they planned accordingly and made the steps large enough to allow some students to hang out while others walked up or down.


Outside the area will be the commons garden, with seating available among the nearby plants and trees. Construction on the existing school isn't scheduled to start until spring 2019, with the doors opening in time for the 2022-23 academic year.

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