UIC opens new state-of-the-art living and learning community
When students arrive on the University of Illinois at Chicago campus next month, nearly 550 will move into its newest building, the Academic and Residential Complex, where they will have the opportunity to take classes in new spaces that foster learning through technology and collaborative design.
The construction of the building comes as UIC’s projected number of new students is expected to climb by as many as 10,000 over the next decade and this year’s fall enrollment numbers are expected to continue record levels for the fifth-straight year.
The new building, located steps from the UIC-Halsted Blue Line CTA stop at Harrison and Morgan streets, broke ground in January 2018 and a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on July 18.
The complex is made up of a 54,000-square-foot, two-story academic building as well as a 146,000-square-foot, 10-story residence hall, which includes 548 beds.
The $100 million facility was part of a public-private partnership with American Campus Communities, an Austin, Texas-based company and the nation’s largest developer, owner and manager of high-quality student housing communities. The project was financed primarily through a tax-exempt bond issuance with Collegiate Housing Foundation, a nonprofit 501c3 organization, serving as the borrower and owner of the project. The development was designed by Chicago-based SCB architects.
“This new complex serves as a beacon that illuminates UIC’s growth and burgeoning role as Chicago’s leader in higher education, workforce development and intellectual thought,” said UIC Chancellor Michael Amiridis. “By thinking creatively and utilizing a public-private partnership, we are able to provide a much-needed complex for our students with state-of-the-art amenities to enhance their learning experience in the heart of a world-class city.”
The building, which was built on the site of a former 4-acre parking lot, provides 83,000 square feet of residential space in traditional two-person dorm rooms as well as semi-suite style units. The building is designed LEED Gold, with a green roof and other design additions to optimize sustainability.
In addition, the building houses 16,000 square feet of shared spaces, including study and social lounges on each floor, a fitness center, laundry facility and a 10th-floor sky lounge. A 1,600-square-foot retail area will hold a Starbucks that will be run and managed by students.
“At American Campus Communities, we believe every student should love where they live,” said James Wilhelm, executive vice president of public-private partnerships for American Campus Communities. “Thanks to our new and lasting partnership with UIC, we are thrilled to provide this purpose-built, living/learning accommodation to UIC students and the city of Chicago, and we welcome the opportunity to deliver the best possible living experience when we open our doors next month and for many years to come.”
The building is the 10th residential hall on the UIC campus and the newest since 2007. The last new academic building constructed on the east side of campus opened in 1991.
Unlike the other residence halls, the building is the only one where classes are also being offered. The building has 54,000 square feet of academic space, including seven interactive classrooms, the largest of which will seat 288 students. The building also houses several small group study rooms, a tutoring center, computer stations and collaboration spaces “throughout the building to encourage cooperation.”
Paul Malchow, associate professor of biological science, who was a faculty advisor involved in the design process — which also included students — said the vision for the building was to create spaces fostering more student-faculty interaction both in and outside the classrooms. The classrooms were tasked with promoting “active learning strategies” that facilitate students working in groups, Malchow said. He will be teaching a course in the building that incorporates much student-faculty and student-student interaction, which will be enhanced by whiteboards and other cutting-edge technology.
“The newly designed classrooms in the building should really encourage the active learning strategies that I try to incorporate into this class,” Malchow said. “It’s a real godsend.”
In addition, students are part of Living-Learning Communities where they are grouped on floors with others who are studying similar subjects, such as humanities, criminal justice and the sciences. In addition to resident assistants who will be assigned to each floor, peer mentors also will be assigned to each floor to help students, the majority of whom are incoming freshmen.
“Besides being the first to live there and seeing the amazing views, I am most excited about being able to just walk downstairs to go to my class in my pajamas without stepping outside,” said Nikia Watkins, an incoming junior who will serve as a resident assistant. “I am very excited about being able to study in the study rooms however late I want and being able to just go upstairs to my room.”
While the building is near three highways, it is designed to be soundproof. The proximity to the CTA’s Blue Line stop offers a direct route to O’Hare International Airport, downtown and other vibrant communities throughout Chicago. Students will have a veritable United Nations of food choices with Little Italy, Greektown, Pilsen and Chinatown less than a mile away from their dorm rooms and classes. Currently, 60% of the students living there are incoming freshmen and the building will house students from 13 different countries, 20 different states and represent 12 colleges with 70 different majors.
The complex is a key component of the school’s master plan to bolster the physical development of UIC, said Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs J. Rex Tolliver. The plan is in the final stage of development and addresses the university’s capital infrastructure needs as total enrollment — including graduate and professional students — continues to grow, exceeding 31,600 students last year for the first time in UIC’s history.
“Today, we say to students and families that if you choose UIC for your educational journey, you will find state-of-the-art classrooms and living/learning environments that have been intentionally planned to foster student success,” Tolliver said. “We are committed to ensuring that the fastest-growing university in the state will have the needed facilities to meet the demand and expectations today, tomorrow and well into the future.”
To meet the needs of the increasing number of students enrolled in engineering and computer science programs, UIC also will be celebrating the opening of a second new building this summer. The 50,000-square-foot Engineering Innovation Building near Taylor and Morgan streets will house instructional space, research labs and staff offices. It also will include the university’s first high-bay structural research lab, where researchers can perform tests on large-scale structures.
Ground was broken in 2017 for that building and a ribbon-cutting celebration is scheduled for July 22. When it opens, it will concentrate the College of Engineering in one area on the east side of campus. It will provide room for the chemical, mechanical and industrial engineering, as well as the civil and materials engineering departments. In addition, UIC will be merging with the John Marshall Law School this fall to create the UIC John Marshall Law School, Chicago’s first and only public law school and UIC’s 16th academic college.
The University of Illinois at Chicago is a major research university located in the heart of one of the world’s greatest cities. Ranked 29th in the nation among public universities by the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education, UIC is Chicago’s largest and only public research university with 31,600 students, and an integral part of the educational, technological and cultural fabric of Chicago. UIC is recognized as one of the most ethnically rich and culturally diverse universities in America. With 16 academic colleges, including seven health science colleges, UIC prepares professionals in all areas of study and contributes to economic development of Chicago and the state of Illinois.
About American Campus Communities
American Campus Communities, Inc. is the largest owner, manager and developer of high-quality student housing communities in the United States. The company is a fully integrated, self-managed and self-administered equity real estate investment trust (REIT) with expertise in the design, finance, development, construction management and operational management of student housing properties. As of March 31, American Campus Communities owned 171 student housing properties containing approximately 109,400 beds. Including its owned and third-party managed properties, ACC’s total managed portfolio consisted of 205 properties with approximately 133,700 beds. Visit www.americancampus.com or contact Gina Cowart, firstname.lastname@example.org at American Campus Communities.