The Northern Illinois University Board of Trustees today approved a long-term ground lease with the Collegiate Housing Foundation (CHF). The vote moves the university one step closer to the development of its first new undergraduate residence hall in more than four decades.
“The wants and needs of students have changed dramatically since we opened our last new undergraduate residence hall more than 40 years ago,” said NIU President John Peters.
While no final designs have been selected, the university instructed companies submitting proposals for the project that it is seeking new and innovative housing options. The goal is to create a 21st century “living learning community,” preferably one that incorporates the use of clusters that create a series of smaller communities within the residence hall. The university indicated that innovative thinking also should extend to the dining room (incorporating food court-style dining options) and all communal living spaces.
Those requirements were based on extensive surveying of current NIU students and research from around the country, all of which indicate that students today have competing desires for greater privacy along with ample opportunities to interact with their neighbors.
The ground-lease agreement approved Wednesday is the first step in a series of agreements and contracts that will result in construction of new campus housing for up to 1,000 students. Those units would replace other housing to be taken offline or remodeled in the coming years. There are currently no plans to exceed the historic campus housing capacity of 6,000 units, Peters said.
If all goes according to plan, up to 1,000 new beds could be ready for students in the fall of 2012. The university is evaluating two locations for the new facilities, both on the west side of campus.
Under the terms approved Wednesday, the university will not incur any of the cost of building the new facilities. Instead, CHF will contract with a private developer for the construction and financing of the project. When the buildings are complete, they will be leased to, and managed by, NIU. After a period not to exceed 40 years, ownership will revert to the university.
“This agreement allows us to address a pressing need in a timely manner without cost to the university,” said Board Chair Marc Strauss. “Using this model, we can provide attractive, affordable housing that meets the demands of today’s students, despite the current financial crisis facing the state. It is truly a valuable tool.”
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