Campus Conversation: Kim Kidwell

Campus Conversation: Kim Kidwell

The 90-year-old feed mill at the corner of Fourth Street and St. Mary's Road is showing its age, so much so that many people who drive by think it has been abandoned, says KIM KIDWELL.

The dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences would like nothing better than to see the feed mill replaced. But she says the campus isn't quite ready to pull the trigger.

In this week's podcast, staff writer Julie Wurth talked with Kidwell about that and other topics, including the future of the swine farm, a revamp of UI Extension and a new "ACES Corridor" on the southeast campus. Here's a sample:

Developer Peter Fox said last week that the campus might start construction in September on a new feed mill at Curtis Road and Race Street in Urbana. Is that correct?

I have to tell you, I learned some things in that (News-Gazette) article that I didn't know myself. We really aren't in a position at this point to make an official announcement on the feed mill. But I'll tell you that we've worked diligently on this project since I got here because it's such an important build for the future of the animal science department and the college, and also the ACES corridor, that we really want to establish around the master plan. So we're working very hard to figure out a funding model for the feed mill.

We don't have all the money in hand to build it, which is the challenge. The $6 million mentioned in the article, those are internal resources that the college, the provost's office, the president, the university, the VCR (vice chancellor for research) have dedicated to pull together to support the build. So we're halfway there. We're going to have to do some fundraising on the other end of it to get the rest of the resources that we need together to pay for it.

I'm hoping that we make good progress on creating a good plan for financing moving forward, and that we will be able to make an official announcement about what we're going to do in the next few months. ... I don't know what the timeline is going to be.

The price tag quoted was $11 million, rather than the $13 or $14 million originally quoted. Has the cost gone down?

We started digging into the realities of what we need in a feed mill, and I think the original one that was scoped was bigger than we really need. So we made some adjustments in scope and size, which helped reduce the cost. This is a day when wasting a dime is not a good idea. And we want to make sure we're efficient and effective.

Do you have any thoughts on the idea of an ice arena at that site vs. the downtown site that the feasibility study favored?

This might sound funny coming from somebody within the university: What happens on that site after we leave is none of my business. We want to get out of there and create opportunities for the university to expand in some meaningful way into that space. What goes there is not really my place to make that decision.

I know the discussion about the ice arena has been interesting. I think it's exciting to think about having an ice arena at all; where it's located isn't in my circle of influence. But all I know for sure is that there might be an opportunity to build something there that's magnificent, so I hope that happens.