UIC’s Implementation Plan creates excitement, increases forward momentum for the university
March 1, 2019

Plans call for the UIC campuses to look more attractive and user friendly.

By Nathan Worcester

University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Campus Architect David Taeyaerts recently gave public previews of the UIC Master Plan Update: Implementation Plan.

In an interview with Gazette Chicago, Taeyaerts emphasized the continuity between this master plan and UIC’s 2010 plan, though he noted the university’s ongoing enrollment growth had influenced its newest vision.

Typically, universities “re-evaluate their master plan every five years and determine if an update is needed,” Taeyaerts said. “The 2010 UIC master plan included a broad framework meant to guide the development of the physical campus over a 40- to 50-year time period; however, it did not tie development plans with specific growth scenarios. Therefore it did not envision the growth in student enrollment planned for UIC over the current ten-year time period.

“As a result UIC needed to revisit the 2010 master plan, build upon its goals, and identify near term facilities and grounds projects to accommodate the growth,” Taeyaerts said.

The 2010 plan “had a very urban approach to siting [locating] buildings,” Taeyaerts said. “That’s something very unique for UIC, and that’s something we’re trying to capitalize on here.”

“The master plan update, along with ongoing construction, has created tremendous excitement across the university,” said vice chancellor for administrative services John Coronado. “This plan update will increase our forward momentum by outlining a compelling vision of what UIC can become.”

UIC developed the new plan with the university-focused master planning firm Ayers Saint Gross and the architecture firm Moody Nolan. Additional guidance came from UIC’s Design Review Committee.

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) and the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) have helped develop the plan’s multimodal transportation components, which include elevated crosswalks painted with international walkway symbols and bike lanes separated from traffic by “flexible delineators” (plastic pylons placed at regular intervals). Illinois Medical District (IMD) planners also joined in to ensure consistency among the entities’ visions.

During the winter, the quad on UIC’s east campus would become an ice rink.

Long-term vision

UIC’s long-term vision consists of four major project types: facility, “transformational grounds,” intersection, and gateway. The last category refers to six proposed red gateways, with the color specified per the chancellor’s request. Standing 25 feet high and made of folded steel, the gateways will welcome visitors and bridge UIC’s west and east campuses.

Key east campus changes include a new building for the College of Business Administration, west of the Architecture and Design Studios, on a former ComEd site as well as the nine-story, 100,000 gross square foot Visual and Performing Arts building on the site of Harrison Field on the north side of Harrison Street near Halsted Street. Additionally, UIC plans to build new dormitories to replace the ones at the southwest corner of Harrison and Halsted with what Taeyaerts described as a “view corridor to the City of Chicago.”

Taeyaerts added that work on the new dormitories would begin “as soon as the financing is in place.” Another university official estimated demolition would commence in 2020 and workers would finish the buildings by 2022 or 2023.

At the meeting, Taeyaerts showed renderings of a transformed east campus quad. Taeyaerts described the current area as “a pass-through space with a lot of pavement”; the master plan will lower it several feet, make it green, and add a perimeter ring of seating and fire pits. In winter, UIC would convert it to an ice rink.

During the meeting, Taeyaerts indicated workers will complete the Advanced Chemical Technology
Building on the west side of Halsted Street between Taylor Street and Roosevelt Road soon. The master plan also calls for a new multi-purpose event arena building to replace the current UIC Pavilion/Credit Union 1 Arena building.

Key new facilities on the west campus include the Drug Discovery Institute (DDI), with links to the College of Pharmacy building via a multistory pedestrian bridge. Taeyaerts indicated to Gazette Chicago that DDI’s first phase should conclude within the next five years, with phase two finished “at least ten years from now.”

The Master Plan Update also describes a UI Health Welcome Atrium on the northeast corner of Wood and Taylor Streets. It would connect to an Eye & Ear Infirmary Replacement & Surgery Center on the southeast corner of the same intersection. In addition, Marshfield Avenue, a UIC campus street, will become a pedestrian way. Taeyaerts also mentioned possibly closing Wolcott Avenue to vehicular traffic.

Key new facilities on the UIC west campus include the Drug Discovery Institute (DDI), linked with the College of Pharmacy, and a health sciences greenway.

Comfort amenities

At the meeting, Taeyaerts described a number of “near-term activators” primarily intended for east campus, including hammocks and lighting. In the interview with Gazette Chicago, Taeyaerts explained UIC would experiment with placing movable Adirondack chairs on the east and west campuses, adding that other urban universities have not suffered from furniture theft as a result of similar programs.

The new master plan both honors and partly replaces original campus architect Walter Netsch’s brutalist design.

“Many of the east campus strategies in the update reinforce Netsch’s original master plan, including: planned improvements to the quad to transform it from a pass-through space to a central gathering space, reinforcing the north-south spine as a primary pathway, and building larger mixed-use buildings farther out from the center of campus,” Taeyaerts said. “The update also proposes that new buildings address some of the challenges of Netsch’s buildings, including the lack of transparency. All of Netsch’s buildings have glass on the ground floor, but they do not offer visibility inside the building due to the dark tinting of the glass.

“The update proposes adding more transparency on the first and second floor of buildings to highlight activities inside and encourage ‘eyes on the street’ outside to help with safety,” added Taeyaerts.

During the meeting, multiple attendees questioned whether the plan gave short shrift to professional students’ needs on the west campus. One questioner suggested surveying professional students to see if they want services such as the ice rink and fire pits planned for east campus.

Responding to questions about parking and curb space, Taeyaerts indicated UIC has retained a parking consultant and is conducting an analysis of valet parking and drop-off areas near the UI Health buildings.

Asked about coordination between UIC and other local institutions on transit issues, Fernando Howell, director of the Office of Capital Planning and Project Management, indicated talks were underway with IMD about developing a circular shuttle service for multiple institutions.

Howell also said the Jane Byrne Interchange construction project likely will take a few more years to complete.

Taeyaerts also explained at the meeting that the university views its network of surface parking lots as “land banks” for future development. His remarks suggested the university believes ridesharing, mass transit, cycling, and emerging autonomous vehicle technology likely will reduce long-term demand for parking at UIC.

Asked about the plan’s cost, Taeyaerts said estimates for near term projects are not available yet.

For more about the plan, log on to https://cppm.uic.edu/masterplan.

A view of Stevenson Hall and the North Quad on the University of Illinois at Chicago’s East Campus, showing greenery and open space.