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Quinn announces $54.3M project at ISU

NORMAL — Gov. Pat Quinn started off Illinois State University’s Founders Day celebration with a bang Thursday, announcing the release of $54.3 million for a new complex for ISU’s College of Fine Arts.

Proclaiming “We’re all Redbirds today,” Quinn told a room filled with people gathered for the annual bell-ringing ceremony that the project would create 775 construction jobs and is an investment in higher education.

“This investment means Illinois State University will be able to build on its excellent reputation in the fine arts while creating hundreds of good jobs,” Quinn said.

ISU President Al Bowman said, “We’ve waited a long time for this. … The current facility wasn’t designed for what we do today.”

The project has been on ISU’s wish list for more than 12 years. The buildings are “not in the best shape” and have problems with ventilation and with requirements for access under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Bowman said.

The Center for Visual Arts and Centennial West will be torn down and Centennial East will be extensively remodeled as part of the project. The Centennial buildings were built in 1959 and the Center for Visual Arts was built in 1973.

The complex sits at the southeast corner of the quad, at School and Beaufort streets.

“We are extremely grateful to Gov. Quinn for his perseverance in bringing this project to Illinois State,” Bowman said. “The College of Fine Arts offers first-class programs with outstanding faculty, staff and students who deserve first-class facilities.”

The first phase will be $7.5 million for design and planning work. That phase is expected to take 18 months to two years. Construction is expected to take about two years after that.

The planning is complex because faculty offices and other facilities will have to be moved elsewhere during the demolition and construction phases, Bowman explained.

University officials have indicated that the residence halls that were closed last year likely will be used for offices during the transition.

The money is coming from video gambling revenue dedicated to capital projects. Quinn said that money is not available for the state’s operating budget.

Abby Vombrack, a senior in theater education and acting, said fine arts students spend a lot of time in the buildings and the new complex will be a welcome improvement for students who follow her.

“They are doing what they can do, but there’s so much that could be done,” said Vombrack of Buffalo Grove.

Austin Robbins of Bolingbrook, a senior in arts technology and fine arts, said a lot of the technology used in his classes is not up to date, but he emphasized, “I think I’ve had a great preparation” – and he might come back for graduate school when the project is completed.

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