Northern Illinois University broke ground Monday on the $27 million expansion of the Stevens Building. The renovation of the university’s home of theater, dance, and anthropology has been on the school’s priority list for years.
Renovations on the 56 year old building have been going on all year: this was the ceremonial ground-breaking, with students, university officials, and local politicians getting a chance to sink a gold-colored shovel into the dirt.
Governor Pat Quinn called the project an important investment in the state’s future:
“I want folks down the road, a hundred years from now, to say those people, those Illinoisans back in 2014, they cared about the future, they cared about education. They were custodians of the culture.”
Anthropology professor Judy Ledgerwood is excited about what the much-needed changes will mean for her students:
"Oh I am very excited. I worked in this building for twenty years and it had so many problems. The roof leaked, the windows leaked, and there were always problems with the heating and the cooling. So the chance to get a new building is really wonderful."
Tracy Nunnally is the technical director for the school of theater and dance. He says working in the outdated building has been a challenge over the years:
“One of the things we always sold as part of the charm of working in the old Stevens building was that if you could mount a show in the old Stevens building, you could mount a show in any venue in the United States… and in some third world countries.”
The teardown and rehab of the Stevens Building is funded through the state’s capital construction program. The programs that were housed in the building have been moved to other sites on and off campus: they can return to their much-improved home in about a year and a half.