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NIU gets $10.3 million for renovations

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2010 6:48 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2010 2:59 p.m. CDT
(Rob Winner –
Gov. Pat Quinn reads the names of the students that lost their lives on Feb. 14, 2008, before announcing about $10.3 million in capital funding for Cole Hall and the Stevens Building at NIU in DeKalb on Wednesday.

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DeKALB – Northern Illinois University is going to get $10.3 million in state funding to help renovate two buildings on campus.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announced on campus Wednesday morning that NIU will receive $8 million to renovate Cole Hall and $2.3 million for the renovation of the Stevens Building. Both buildings were on the state's capital fund list. The funding comes from a statewide capital projects measure signed into law July 13 by Quinn.

The university has been asking for money to renovate Stevens Building for about a decade. NIU officials have said the building needs a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, improvements for space and electrical needs, a new roof and ceilings.

Cole Hall, the location of the February 2008 shooting that left five students dead, was a more recent addition to the capital projects list. It's two large lecture halls have not been used since Feb. 14, 2008, when a former NIU graduate student walked into the East Auditorium and opened fire, killing five and injuring another 21 before committing suicide.

“We can never fully put this tragedy behind us but it is important to move forward,” Quinn said. “Renovating Cole Hall, along with the funding for Stevens Building construction planning, provides a vital step in helping the NIU community heal from the impact of this senseless shooting.”

Plans for Cole Hall include changing the appearance of the West Auditorium, which will be used as classroom space, to a 400-seat facility with up-to-date technology. The East Auditorium will become a non-classroom activity room and will undergo significant changes in appearance.

The lobby and building facade also will change so that the face of Cole Hall is completely different. A 200- to 400-seat lecture hall will be built and attached to Stevens Building to make up for the loss of the East Auditorium as educational space.

“Soon after the tragedy of Feb. 14, 2008, we came to the realization that any comprehensive healing process on campus must incorporate efforts to repurpose Cole Hall. With today’s announcement we take great satisfaction in knowing that we are one step closer to reaching that goal,” NIU President John Peters said in a news release. “We are also pleased that, after so many years of hoping and dreaming, we can begin to address the deplorable state of the Stevens Building.”

According to an NIU news release, the university could start construction on Cole Hall late this summer, if the state funding remains timely. The target date for reopening the new lecture hall in Cole Hall is fall 2011. No timeline was announced for the new lecture hall that will be attached to Stevens Building.

Quinn made the funding announcement during a news conference in the Sky Room of the Holmes Student Center. He was joined by Peters and state Rep. Robert Pritchard, R-Hinckley.

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