Cole Hall Renovation Plan To Be Introduced To Ill. Legislature

This story was written by David Thomas, Northern Star


A proposal to fund the Cole Hall renovation and construction plan announced by Northern Illinois University President John Peters Wednesday will be introduced as an emergency issue to the Illinois legislature this month.

The construction, in addition to the renovation, is expected to cost about $7.7 million. Peters described this as substantially less when compared to the proposed $40 million for the demolition of Cole Hall and the construction of a new building.

Despite the lower cost, funding for the structure is still unknown. In the initial aftermath of the shootings, NIU experienced an outpouring of support from Gov. Rod Blagojevich and other state officials. Still, Peters has called for caution.

While support for NIU remains strong in Springfield and across the State, our elected representatives are dealing with many competing priorities and a fragile state budget, Peters said in an e-mail to the NIU community.

State Rep. Bob Pritchard (R-Hinckley) is ready to support the bill.

Pritchard said $7.7 million is an easier amount to work with and the proposed renovations are more plausible than a straight demolition.

Its something Im going to support as a very reasonable plan, he said.

THE PLAN

Cole Hall will be extensively remodeled as per Option Two, Peters said.

Option Two calls for the renovation of Auditorium B (Room 101) to support no classroom activities, while Auditorium A (100) will still function as a lecture hall. In addition, both the interior lobby and exterior appearance of the building will be renovated.

Peters said that the decision was based on more than 5,000 surveys they had received since announcing the three options on April 28, a majority of them supporting Option Two. Peters said a consensus will be helpful when they seek state support.

Your voices have been heard, and I pledge to represent those wishes in the weeks and months ahead as we strive to make NIUs critical classroom space needs a top priority across our state, Peters said.

As a result of modifying one of the 500-seat lecture halls for non-academic use, there is still a need for an auditorium classroom, Peters said.

Taking one 500-seat auditorium out of service requires us to replace that classroom space elsewhere on campus, Peters said in the e-mail. More than 12,000 students had classes in Cole Hall this academic year, so the need to replace lost instructional space is very real.

Option Two includes plans to a construct a new lecture hall somewhere in the center campus area, but the exact location is unknown.

Students expressed general support for the decision on Cole Hall. Brent Keller, junior organizational management major and president-elect of the Student Association, said he expressed ideas that were very similar to Option Two. As a member of the universitys committee on the future of Cole Hall, Keller said his ideas were reflected across the student body.

Many of them expressed sentiments that were found in Option Two, Keller said.

Lori Jones, freshman undecided major, said that she supports renovating Cole Hall and using one of the lecture halls for non-academic purposes.

It should be kept a memorial so people wont forget about those who lost their lives on that day, Jones said. They shouldnt force students to go back there if they arent comfortable with it.

Jessica Peterson, freshman English major, said that although she agrees with the universitys decision, she felt that both lecture halls should be open for at least a year.

Keep it as a lecture hall. After a year, if people till have a problem with it, drastic measures could be taken, Peterson said.

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