CUPPA faculty, staff relocate offices during building repairs

CUPPA Hall next to construction site

The southeast quadrant of CUPPA Hall, located along the Eisenhower Expressway, dropped about 1.8 inches during winter break. “We believe it was directly related to the work being done in the Circle Interchange project,” says Mark Donovan, vice chancellor for administrative services. Photo: S.K. Vemmer


UIC faculty, staff and students who have offices in CUPPA Hall will temporarily relocate to other campus buildings until July 1 during repairs for structural damage that may be related to the Byrne Interchange reconstruction.

College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs employees discovered the structural damage when they returned to campus Jan. 5 after winter break, said Mark Donovan, vice chancellor for administrative services.

The building, at 412 S. Peoria St., is located along the Eisenhower Expressway where the Illinois Department of Transportation’s $475 million, four-year Byrne (formerly Circle) Interchange reconstruction is under way.

“The southeast quadrant of the building dropped about 1.8 inches sometime over the break and we believe it was directly related to the work being done in the Circle Interchange project,” Donovan said.

CUPPA Hall will be closed beginning Feb. 16, after all academic units and centers are relocated to three campus locations. The Survey Research Laboratory will move to the Student Services Building. The Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy will move to 1253 S. Halsted St. on South Campus. All other research and academic units will relocate to the Student Resident Hall, 818 S. Wolcott Ave. Student support offices, including undergraduate and graduate degree programs and the Urban Data Visualization Lab, will be housed on the second floor of AEH. Classes are held in Art and Exhibition Hall, an adjacent building unaffected by the structural damage, and will not be affected by the move.

A special shuttle bus will be available to help students and faculty travel between the east and west sides of campus.


Accelerating repairs

Engineers and consultants were called in to assess the safety of the building after damage was discovered Jan. 5. Faculty and staff returned to the building Jan. 8 with limited access; several offices remained closed and employees have been working in conference rooms.

Shoring has been installed to support the building and monitors are in place to detect building movement, Donovan said. Additional monitors from the UIC College of Engineering will be installed this week, he added.

Plans call for an accelerated repair schedule, expected to be completed July 1. The university is pursuing options to recover some of the repair costs, Donovan said.

“The building is now entirely safe for occupancy, but there are some issues,” he said. “There’s some difficulty closing doors and there are cracks that are very disconcerting for people who are occupying the building.”

UIC administrators decided to relocate CUPPA units while the building is repaired, said Michael Pagano, dean of the college. “When the building was compromised in December, there was a lot of dust and debris that had fallen into the rooms that hasn’t been cleaned,” he said. “Given the condition of the building, continuing construction and possibility of more tremors within the building, we agreed to move out.

“We’re hopeful and confident that all of the projects will be completed on an accelerated basis so we can move back to a better facility than what we left.”


Completing other repairs

The building, former headquarters for the Formfit women’s undergarment company, was built in 1910, said Albert Schorsch III, associate dean of CUPPA.

Construction site next to CUPPA Hall

Construction at the southeast corner of CUPPA Hall. Photo: S.K. Vemmer

It was acquired by the university in 1979 through the auspices of Alan Voorhees, then interim dean of the College of Architecture, Art and Urban Planning, Schorsch said. “He felt that it was a real find for the university.”

The adjacent Art and Exhibition Hall, built in 1920, is made of concrete, Schorsch said. “That’s one of the reasons we’re able to keep the classrooms going — it’s a different structure and not quite as old.”

The building housed admissions, records and alumni offices before it became home in 1998 to the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, founded in 1995. The building was renovated but a window replacement project was never completed, Schorsch said.

“It’s been 17 years since that rehab and the project was going to begin last summer,” Schorsch said. “In the midst of the window replacement project and repairs on the 100-year-old structure, the IDOT construction began and put it on hold.”

UIC administrators decided to push ahead with the window replacement project while the building is empty and structural repairs are under way, Pagano said.

Although the move isn’t ideal, students and employees will return to an improved building on a street with green space and access to an updated CTA station and a new Peoria Street bridge, Schorsch said.

“It’s important, as future city planners and managers, to keep the vision in mind of what we’re aiming for, and that’s an improved location,” he said. “It’s a challenging time but a good time because it’s going to produce a very good future.”

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