Summer construction is in full swing on the campus of Northern Illinois University. Workers lay bricks around residential buildings, and construction fences bar pedestrians from many walkways. More noticeable are several big ticket projects that are intended to make the campus more student-friendly.
There's always some sprucing up before the new school year, so what is different this year? Money.
Bill Nicklas is in charge of facilities at NIU. He says the university usually spends around a million dollars each summer to freshen up the campus. This year, more than $3 million was set aside for construction projects.
Nicklas says as student enrollment dips, there's an urgency to attract and retain students.
He says in addition to the major projects, there will be various nips/tucks across campus.
"Hopefully we will have some of those little 'wow' spots around campus that people will appreciate. They don't cost a lot of money, but for those people who are returning and are used to a certain look, I think they will be pleased," Nicklas said.
With dwindling state funding, Nicklas says future projects will require administrators to use discretion.
"[We have] limited dollars, lots of ideas, and lots of needs. Every year, what we need to do is go through a pretty rigorous process, and get all of the ideas on the table and rank them in terms of highest priority and [find] what needs to be done in maybe a phased process over a number of years."
Projects this summer include demolishing a portion of the Stevens Building, which houses the School of Theater and Dance and the Department of Anthropology. The remaining building will be renovated.
The main entrance to DuSable, which holds classes for several majors and general education courses, is getting a facelift after experiencing water damage.
Crews are currently doing interior work to prepare Douglas Hall for demolition. It was a residential building until last semester.
As far as transportation, a custom-made tram called a "pup," just arrived on-campus and will be used to shuttle up to 12 students at a time across campus. The university is considering a fleet of four "pups" for campus.
Nicklas says workers will add lighting around the core of campus to encourage students and staff to use the area as a hub for activities.
Classes begin August 25th.