New Roosevelt skyscraper goal is community quality
October 1, 2010
Modern glass construction will reflect the streetscape at Roosevelt University’s new building.

By William S. Bike

Roosevelt University is erecting a 32-story, $118 million skyscraper at 425 S. Wabash Ave., with the idea of helping make the South Loop “a high-quality place to live,” said Chuck Middleton, university president.

Under construction since April, the facility should be completed in January 2012, in time for that academic year’s second semester. “This building is part of the larger growth of higher education in the community,” Middleton said. “The expanding educational presence has helped revitalize the neighborhood. There is activity at all hours, which contributes to safety. I live in this community, so I know this from personal experience.”

Designed by VOA Architects, the building will include classrooms, lecture halls, science laboratories, conference rooms, a dining center seating 300, a student recreation center, fitness facilities, housing for more than 600 students, offices, and space for the Walter E. Heller College of Business Administration.

“This is the single most important development in the university’s history since the Auditorium Building was acquired in 1946,” Middleton said. “It’s a response to two major needs of the university,” he continued. “First is the growth of the size of the student body. We just need more space. Second, we need more modern space—particularly up-to-date classroom and laboratory space for our science programs.”

Roosevelt expects a 50% increase in full-time (or equivalent) students by 2017; the new structure will increase classroom space by 42%.

In addition, the building “certainly is going to bring more Roosevelt students into the neighborhood, with all of the purchasing power that will go with their going to school and residing here,” Middleton said. “It also will serve as a community center, providing places where people can come from the community into the university. We will be able to put on different kinds of activities, lectures, and performances that we can’t put on in the current facility, so there will be more cultural opportunities for people in the area to come to in the evenings,” he said.

The skyscraper will be nearly the tallest educational structure in the nation—second only to one at the University of Pittsburgh—and the sixth tallest in the world. It also will be unusual in combining academic, administrative, and housing facilities under one roof.

Floors one through five will contain student services. Floors six through 13 will hold classrooms, labs, and offices; three of those floors will be used solely for science education in biology, chemistry, physics, and other disciplines.

Seven small classrooms will accommodate 36 or fewer students, four large rooms will seat 60 to 80, and three auditoriums will seat up to 108. The remaining floors will contain student housing consisting of 295 private rooms, 160 double-occupancy rooms, and 18 rooms for resident assistants. The top 22 floors will have unobstructed views of Lake Michigan because the glass-and-steel tower will be adjacent to the Auditorium Building, with four connecting points between the two structures.

The skyscraper will be 469 feet tall, 100 feet across, and 170 feet deep.

As a LEED-certified building, it will feature a green roof, use recycled and sustainable building materials, be energy- and water- efficient, and assure indoor environmental quality.

“We’re not getting any federal or state money for the project,” Middleton said. “We’re raising private capital, and we will pay for it in part by the additional enrollment and the normal operational budget of the university.” John Buck Co. is managing the project; Power Construction is building the facility. Workers will preserve the historic Fine Arts Annex facade, created by architect Andrew Rebori in 1924; it will become part of the university bookstore entrance at the new building’s south end.

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