UI set to break ground on new $11 million feed mill in September

UI set to break ground on new $11 million feed mill in September

CHAMPAIGN — The University of Illinois has set a date to begin construction on a new feed mill, paving the way for the demolition of the more than 90-year-old structure just south of State Farm Center.

Construction is set to begin Sept. 8 at its new site near Curtis Road and Race Street at the UI's South Farms in Urbana, developer Peter Fox said in a letter to The News-Gazette.

"There's some discussion about where exactly it's going, but that is the new location," said Andrea Ruedi, CEO of Fox Development, at Monday's Research Park board meeting in Rosemont.

So far, the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences has raised $6 million for the $11 million project, according to Ruedi.

The project has become cheaper since February, when it was expected to cost $13 million.

Based on the timeline presented at Monday's meeting, construction on the new feed mill would finish in June 2019.

The existing feed mill, with its tall, white silos, was built in 1927 and manufactures some 6,000 tons of feed each year for livestock and research.

"It's served us well for many, many years, but there are just better facilities to expand and do a better job," ACES Dean Kim Kidwell said in February.

The new feed mill would be able to produce 16,000 tons of feed each year, according to a fundraising flier for the project.

Once the new feed mill is up and running, the old one will be demolished, Ruedi said, perhaps making way for a community ice arena Fox/Atkins hopes to build at the southwest corner of St. Mary's Road and Fourth Street.

The arena would include two ice rinks with seating for 2,000 fans and the option of a third rink for a potential Division I Illini hockey team.

While a UI feasibility study recommended a Division I hockey arena be built at the downtown Champaign location proposed by developer Hans Grotelueschen, Fox Development is still holding out hope for its proposal.

Also on Monday

— The board approved a new Research Park master plan.

After conducting a parking study that showed many Research Park lots are less than half full at peak usage times, it recommends more buildings go up on and around existing parking lots.

It also recommends moving both the feed mill and the Swine Research Laboratory on First Street a block south of the I Hotel — to Race, south of Curtis.

The pigs and their smell have been a perennial concern for the Research Park, which needs to build around the facility, but less pressing for the College of ACES.

"The swine facility is in a very inconvenient location for Research Park. My challenge is that it serves its function very well. The research being done there is just top-notch," Kidwell said in February. "When I look at the broad list of deferred maintenance, it's hard to make moving a facility that works a high priority."

Because pigs are considered a good model for human health research, scientists have used the facilities to study various topics such as animal nutrition, neuroscience and the impact of breast milk compared with formula.

Plans to replace it range in cost from $8 million for a similar facility to $100 million for a new facility that would consolidate all swine-related research on campus.

— The board heard about a $1.3 million plan to divert the pig waste from lagoons near the Research Park to the sanitary district, which would reduce much of the smell.

But some board members said it didn't make sense to spend that kind of money on a temporary solution when they want to permanently move the pig facilities.