UI trustees to review plan for expansion of research park

UI trustees to review plan for expansion of research park

URBANA — A new master plan for the University of Illinois Research Park envisions an additional 1.5 million square feet of development over the next few decades, emphasizing "walkability" and more connections with the community.

The plan, already approved by the research park's board, will be reviewed Thursday by UI trustees and incorporated into the new campus master plan.

"This could take us 30 to 40 years to achieve," but it allows for significant growth, Research Park Director Laura Frerichs told trustees at a committee meeting last week.

The park now encompasses 17 buildings covering about 800,000 square feet of space. That would grow to about 2.3 million square feet under the new master plan, said Michael Bass, UI senior associate vice president for business and finance.

Launched in 2001, the park's boundaries stretch from St. Mary's Road on the north to Windsor Road on the south, and from Neil Street to Fourth Street.

The park has achieved most of what was laid out in a 2004 master plan, Frerichs said, with development concentrated in the early years on the west side of First Street. The plan was updated in 2007 and again in 2012, the latter covering the east side of First.

The newly revised plan includes offices and labs, light industrial buildings, mixed-used facilities, and potential entertainment or athletic facilities.

It also allows for infill development by building on some of the under-utilized parking lots, Frerichs said.

"We looked at infill because we think density is important," she said.

Some of the projects in the plan — drawn up by Ratio Architects — are already completed.

Phase 1, near the I Hotel and Conference Center, is "well under construction," Frerichs said.

One priority is moving the feed mill at Fourth Street and St. Mary's Road, a "high-profile" location for redevelopment, she said. A new feed mill is high on the list for the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, too, but Dean Kim Kidwell has said the project needs more funding first.

The next phase of the plan would cover infill projects, Frerichs said.

That would be followed by the mixed-use retail and housing development at the southern boundary, near the Carle sports medicine facility.

The final phase would involve moving the swine research facilities in the center of the park and remediating the lagoons used to treat animal waste, which would open up 50 acres for development.

However, the park will be next to agricultural land "for the foreseeable future," Frerichs said, and the plan incorporates grazing and pasture lands.

'Live, work, play'

Overall, it integrates the need to recruit students, improve interactions between companies, and provide corporate innovation centers and space for companies that "graduate" from the Enterprise Works business incubator, officials said.

Frerichs said the mixed-use development and other aspects are also designed to strengthen ties between the companies in the park with the campus and community.

Walkability is important to the companies there, she said. They want easy access for students who work there and a "live, work, play environment," she said.

Specifically, planners wanted to provide pedestrian and bicycle access to campus and to retail areas on the other side of Neil Street, with an intersection that allows pedestrians to safely cross, she said.

The park's developer, Fox/Atkins, recently announced that it is selling majority ownership of its 11 buildings there to a Chicago-based real-estate investment firm in order to raise money for the park's expansion. It will retain minority ownership in the buildings and continue to handle leasing and property management at the park for at least five years. It will also remain the park developer through at least 2020 and compete for the next 10-year development agreement with the UI in 2021.

The university will retain ownership of the land and the park will continue to be managed by UI Research Park LLC, a limited liability company of the UI Board of Trustees.

Thursday agenda

After several committee meetings this afternoon, trustees will consider the new master plan at their business meeting Thursday morning at the Illini Union, 1401 W. Green St., U.

The board will also be asked to approve several appointments announced earlier and a $6.83 billion operating budget for 2018-19.

On the agenda:

— The appointment of William Sanders, head of the Department of Electrical and Computer engineering in Urbana, as interim director of the Discovery Partners Institute based in Chicago. He will be paid $387,000 annually.

— The appointment of art and design Professor Kevin Hamilton as dean of the College of Fine and Applied Arts, at a salary of $215,000. He was formerly senior associate dean of the college.

— The appointment of political science Professor Tracey Sulkin as dean of the College of Media, a three-year appointment, at a salary of $241,500. She has been executive associate dean of the college.

— The naming of the new $79.2 million football practice center as the Henry Dale and Betty Smith Football Performance Center, in recognition of their $15 million gift for the project. The family also donated $3 million for student scholarships and $2 million to the new Carle Illinois College of medicine.