Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn joined Northern Illinois University Board of Trustees Chair John Butler and other officials Monday for a ceremonial groundbreaking on the expansion and renovation of the Stevens Building. The $27.4 million project is managed by the Illinois Capital Development Board.
“Northern Illinois University is a gem of our state’s higher education system and these improvements will help them continue to attract students from across the nation and help them excel,” Gov. Quinn said. “In addition to providing new educational opportunities, the project will also create hundreds of jobs and boost the local economy.”
“This building has meant so much to so many students, faculty and staff and will continue to be the staging ground for career success of so many others,” Butler told the crowd of about 50 who gathered at the job site. “The Stevens Building holds a special place in my heart because when I first arrived on NIU’s campus as an undergraduate, I was interested in set design and technology … Throughout my many years at the university, I often walked through this building just to conjure that feeling, and contemplate how far my NIU education has taken me.”
The north wing of the Stevens Building will be replaced with a 33,000-square-foot addition that will include classrooms, laboratories and offices for the Department of Anthropology.
“For years, the Anthropology Department has operated in a building that challenged the department to compensate for its shortcomings,” said Chris McCord, dean of NIU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “Now, in a new and exciting way, the building will challenge the department to live up to the possibility it offers them. We saw the same thing when the Anthropology Museum moved into its new space in Cole Hall, and the results have fully justified the effort.”
The Stevens expansion also will include a new Black Box Theatre with supporting scene shop space and a new 330-seat lecture hall, and the upgraded building will include the latest accessibility features.
“Having a renovated Stevens building is a wonderful opportunity for our students to be able to work in a state-of-the-art facility,” said Rich Holly, dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts. “Our acting students will hone their craft in spaces with fine acoustical properties; our scene designers and technologists will have the space they need to create the most realistic sets possible; our lighting and costume designers will have several spaces in which to experiment and show off their prowess. And the theater-going public will have a much more enjoyable experience when they attend performances.”
Completed in 1958 and opened in 1959 as the Fine Arts Building, the complex housed the department of Art, Music and Speech – which included the university theater – but none were professional training programs as they are today. The NIU School of Theatre and Dance has grown and developed into an elite, nationally recognized professional theater training school that attracts highly talented students from across the country and around the world.
“Over the past 60 years, those programs have developed into professional training programs, each requiring specific spaces. This is why this is such an important renovation for us. Our students will actually get to work in spaces like the ones in the real world,” Holly said.
The rest of the Stevens Building, approximately 67,000 square feet, will receive a complete rehabilitation with new walls, partitions, mechanical systems and finishes. The project has been designed to achieve LEED Silver certification, a testament to its environmentally friendly, energy-efficient design.
The new building, with the expansion, will total approximately 109,000 square feet and is scheduled to be substantially complete by October, 2015.
“We greatly appreciate the Governor’s support of this much-needed renovation,” NIU President Doug Baker said in a statement. “It will create state-of-the art teaching and performance spaces for NIU students and faculty that will help foster student learning and prepare them for successful lives and careers.”