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ISU Student Housing Project Opening Delayed Until 2022

Aerial view of ISU housing project
Gilbane/Mackey Mitchell Architects
Illinois State University
A preliminary concept design shows the new South Campus housing project at Illinois State University. The design is not final.

The target opening for Illinois State University’s new student housing project has been pushed back until fall 2022 as work continues on a business plan and facility design.

The project, which is expected to cost between $92 million and $132 million, was expected to open for the fall 2021 semester. Vice President for Student Affairs Levester Johnson said ISU has “hit the ground running" since selecting developer Gilbane for the project last August, with work groups meeting weekly.

“That (opening date) remains fluid until we get everything down and the business plan and the facility design as well as the financing package together,” Johnson said. “We won’t make a final determination on an opening date until that point.”

It took a longer than expected to choose a developer for the public-private partnership, he said.

“We lost a little time on the front end,” Johnson said. “The excitement is high about the project. We’re all working hard and have our sleeves rolled up and are putting in a lot of hours in order to get to this next phase.”

It’s unclear when the project will formally go before ISU's Board of Trustees for approval. Johnson said the next steps are to finalize a pre-development agreement with Gilbane and lock down a business plan that “shows how we’re gonna make these numbers work.” 

The project will be built on the land formerly occupied by the Atkin-Colby and Hamilton-Whitten dorms at the southwest corner of campus, between Main and University streets. That’s near the Student Fitness Center.

The project is expected to have up to 1,200 beds, which would be a 20% increase in on-campus housing. The new project represents a major shift in housing strategy for ISU, guided in part by a 2018 study from consultant Brailsford & Dunlavey. After years of demolishing aging residence halls, the study found ISU now lacks enough on-campus housing for sophomores, among other needs.

This project could disrupt the off-campus student housing market. Landlords say vacancies will rise as more students stay on campus, cutting into their revenue and increasing the likelihood for dilapidation and even foreclosures. ISU officials say off-campus apartment owners will still be able to serve upperclass students and graduate students.

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.