Renovation FAQs

What is this project?

With a commitment to being good stewards of one of the most historic buildings on the flagship Urbana-Champaign campus of the University of Illinois and to serving student needs, we are exploring the feasibility of an Illini Union renovation and expansion project.  Dewberry Architects and Workshop Architects were contracted to conduct a formal feasibility study which included feedback from students, faculty, staff and alumni.  They developed a concept that was presented at the Illini Union 75th Anniversary Celebration in February 2017.

Why are we doing it?

Three factors are driving this effort.

First, research and benchmarking with similar institutions revealed that the Illini Union falls far below the averages in critical spaces such as student programming, flexible lounge areas, student organization meeting spaces, and conference or break-out space.

The second factor arose from a thorough review of the interior and exterior structures, which showed a critical need of upgrades and replacements due to many years of deferred maintenance and an aging infrastructure. Further delay in addressing these high-priority projects could negatively impact the ability of the Illini Union to continue to effectively operate and serve the campus community.

Below are a few examples of the second category of urgent repairs:

  • Illini Union roof replacement (tile, membrane and copper)
  • Illini Union exterior masonry and stone renovation
  • Illini Union domestic water pipe system replacement
  • Illini Union fire sprinkler renovations
  • Illini Union South Building southwest emergency egress tower

Lastly, for some time now we have been unable to meet demands for larger, more modern conference and event facilities that would allow us to capture significantly greater amounts of revenue by upgrading and expanding the Illini Union to meet this demand.

Is this a done deal?

What has been presented are design concepts only. We will continue to research how to best serve our students.  This is the important first step in a very long process of considering the feasibility of a renovation and expansion project for the Illini Union.

What is the expected cost?

Currently, the estimated cost for this particular design concept of a renovation and expansion of the Illini Union is $247 million and would occur in two phases.  The Phase I cost estimate is $176 million and includes the South Building, Center Building and the lowest level of the North Building.  The Phase II cost estimate is $71 million and includes the remaining parts of the North Building. These cost estimates have been calculated over five years, assuming that Phase I would begin in 2022.

How will this be paid for?

We are developing a funding plan in strict adherence to regulations from the University of Illinois and the state government.  Funding for the proposed renovation and expansion could include private and corporate donations (including naming rights opportunities), sale of bonds and student fees.

Increased revenue from larger, more modern conference facilities, renovated hotel rooms and dining facilities would help to repay bonds and reduce student support at a faster pace.

What is the expected timeline?

This project is in the preliminary and exploratory phase and is not ready for submission to the chancellor or the Board of Trustees at this time.  Assuming all of the other planning, funding and design elements proceed on schedule, it is hoped construction would begin no later than 2022.

What will a renovation allow us to do in the future that we can’t do now?

  • Much-needed student programming space is gained by completely renovating the center between the North and South pavilions and reconfiguring the lower level.
  • The Illini Rooms, currently used for large conferences and events, will gain additional seating and would accommodate more complex and larger conferences, bringing in additional revenue, which is used to support student programming.
  • The glass exterior on the west and the skylights in the roof would bring in natural lighting and open up the building and provide a more welcoming appearance, which our alumni and students identified as a concern.
  • Views through the first floor North to the South Lounge, extending out to the Quad, were designed to encourage visitors to come inside and explore.

What needs are not being met currently?

Students have expressed that meeting rooms and flexible space for registered student organizations to conduct their business, hold office hours and collaborate is the largest unmet need.

Large conference space with meeting rooms for break-out sessions are difficult to coordinate in the current configuration of the buildings.

For many years, our students have requested a theater that would enable us to host large-scale events, conferences, student performances and practices.

Are you going to tear down the original building?

No, that is not currently being considered.  In this design concept, the historical integrity of the North and South pavilions will be preserved while blending more up-to-date fixtures and amenities throughout the building.

Will the hotel still be there?

Yes, the hotel is currently included in renovation discussions. The design concept presented during the feasibility study proposes a complete remodel, enlarging the bathrooms and upgrading the furniture and fixtures. It is a priority, based upon constituent feedback, that the hotel would be competitive with area hotels, comfortable, and relevant to today’s travelers. It would also support the additional conference services and spaces that would be part of the expansion and provide additional revenue to the organization.

Given the state’s financial situation, how can you even consider this right now?

  • The infrastructure of the facility is in critical need of repair and replacement, and we cannot continue with temporary fixes.
  • Our students have consistently told us that the current building is not serving their needs at the level they expect.
  • Our alumni and constituents have consistently told us that the Illini Union is not meeting their expectations as a “point of pride” for our campus.
  • To fulfill our mission and provide the services, resources and amenities that Illinois students, families, alumni, constituents and visitors from around the globe expect, a renovation and expansion project has been deemed essential to the future viability of the Illini Union.
  • The project would not be dependent upon funding from the state budget.