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NORMAL — A $33 million renovation of Illinois State University's Bone Student Center will be “transformational,” better meeting the institution's needs and increasing efficiency, according to key administrator involved.

“We've known for some time that the building doesn't quite meet the needs of the university,” said David Gill, director of facilities planning. “This will be transformational for the campus.”

When the center was built in 1973, university needs and student expectations were different. A master plan approved by the board of trustees in 2011 identified changes needed to campus facilities.

Trustees approved the start of construction at their meeting May 8, but there is a lot of work to be done before the hammers come out, according to Gill.

The project will be paid for primarily with reserve funds. No tax money will be used and there will be no increase in student fees for the project, President Larry Dietz told the board.

The first phase of the revitalization project will include:

  • Improvements to the west entrance with the addition of a reception area for people waiting to attend events in the Brown Ballroom.
  • Construction of a new entrance on the east side for access to the visitors parking lot. It will include a multistory addition with an information center for visitors and students.
  • Reconfiguring a north-side loading dock that is difficult for trucks to navigate and allows winter cold air and summer heat to enter the first floor.
  • Relocation of the second-floor catering kitchen (originally used for a long-gone cafeteria) to the first floor, adjacent to a renovated loading dock.

Among those anxious to see work begin is Troy Johnson, associate vice president of enrollment management.

“It showcases our university well,” he said of the planned changes.

The project will provide a place where admissions staff can meet and greet visitors and help them find their way around campus, according to Gill and Johnson.

“The campus visit is well-known as one of the most pivotal activities that families engage in” before choosing a college, Johnson said.

A presentation area on the third floor of the east-side addition will overlook the quad.

“The view will be inspirational,” Johnson said. “We'll be able to talk about the university by actually pointing to things.”

Johnson believes that area will be popular for other functions.

Gill said the project will be phased in to minimize disruption.

No parking spaces will be lost in the north lot, although the layout might have to be reconfigured, he said. That is not part of this phase of construction.

Instead of a small, out-of-the-way, outdoor stairway to get from the lower level to the Milner Plaza, between the library and student center, “new exterior stairs will provide a more inviting, clearly defined path to the university quad,” according to a description of the project.

An elevator in the east-side addition also will make access easier for people using wheelchairs, Gill said.

The bookstore will be moved to the first floor, with an entrance from the parking lot.

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Follow Lenore Sobota on Twitter: @pg_sobota

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Education Reporter

Education Reporter for The Pantagraph.

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