When students arrive on the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) 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.
“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 $100 million facility was part of a public-private partnership with American Campus Communities, an Austin, Texas-based 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 501(c)(3) organization, serving as the borrower and owner of the project. The development was designed by Chicago-based SCB architects.
The facility, which was built on the site of a former four-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 include a Starbucks operated and managed by students.
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. It 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 out of the classroom. The classrooms will promote “active learning strategies” that facilitate students working in groups, according to Malchow. 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. Resident assistants will be assigned to each floor and peer mentors will also be assigned to each floor to help students, the majority of whom are incoming freshmen.
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 percent 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.