Gears turning on $41M renovation of UI's Mechanical Enginnering Building

Gears turning on $41M renovation of UI's Mechanical Enginnering Building

URBANA — A $41 million renovation of a major University of Illinois engineering building kicked off Friday as part of campus homecoming festivities.

A ceremonial groundbreaking was held at the Mechanical Engineering Building, at 1206 W. Green St., U, where a three-year project will renovate 60,000 square feet of space and add a five-story addition for a new design center.

The project was originally announced in 2015 and focused on the design center, which was made possible by a $12 million donation from UI engineering alumnus Sidney Lu, a Taiwainese entrepreneur. Construction was to start in early 2017.

But the project was later expanded to include a larger renovation of the entire building, which pushed the schedule back, said college spokesman Bill Bell.

Lu also increased his financial commitment to the project, though his total gift was not made public.

The renovated building will feature active-learning classrooms, state-of-the-art instructional and project labs, and nearly 7,000 square feet of "maker space" designed to inspire creativity, teamwork and innovation, officials said.

The addition will include a 3,000-square-foot open-design student center, a Starbucks and dedicated space for projects, meetings, corporate events and more.

Construction will begin in earnest in January and is set to wrap up in summer 2021, with classes beginning in the renovated building that fall.

Lu, who attended Friday's ceremony with his family and friends, graduated from the UI in 1981 with degrees in mechanical engineering and mathematics.

He is a global leader in technology. Based in Taiwan, he is the first chairman and CEO of Foxconn Interconnect Technology, which designs and manufactures connectors for a range of electronics, including computers and cellphones.

The housemother of the house where he stayed as a UI student attended Friday's ceremony, and Lu also shared a video about his "mother school."

"In Chinese, we called 'alma mater' mother-school ... like mother nature, but only we are nurtured by knowledge," it said. "Giving is about understanding and helping, and mothers always know how to give."

He thanked his mother for her "generous love and guidance," and said he was making his contribution to the university, his "mother school," in her spirit.

-