DeKALB – Northern Illinois University is saying goodbye to one of its oldest dormitories.
NIU’s Board of Trustees voted 7-1 to approve a $4.5 million plan to demolish Douglas Hall dormitory and build a new section of Lucinda Avenue so it extends from the east to west side of campus.
Douglas Hall is the only building preventing university officials from extending Lucinda Avenue west to Stadium Drive West. Officials also want to add pedestrian walkways, bus lanes and bike paths to Lucinda Avenue.
The plan to revamp Lucinda Avenue as a campus thoroughfare is one of the eight ideas listed in NIU’s master plan, an effort spearheaded by NIU President Doug Baker to make changes to the university to attract more students.
NIU Trustee Marc Strauss was the only trustee to vote against the plan Thursday morning. Strauss was concerned about the timing and he would have liked to further discuss details of the plan, he said.
“It’s a worthy project. It needs to be done at some time,” Strauss said. “I wish we had more time to consider the questions that were raised, but I understand the importance of the project.”
Proponents of the proposal said the plan needed to be approved immediately so work could begin at the end of May or early June and be finished in three or four months, said Bill Nicklas, NIU’s vice president of public safety and community relations.
Douglas Hall has four wings and two main entrances on either side of the building. Built in the 1960s because of a spike in student enrollment, it has no air conditioning or elevators.
Demolition crews will need to be aware of asbestos, a mineral that can cause cancer, on the building tiles.
They will need to demolish one wing at a time to minimize health hazards, Nicklas said.
The $4.5 million will come from local money that NIU has saved over several years, which has no connection with the state of Illinois, said Nancy Suttenfield, NIU’s interim chief financial officer.
NIU has been dealing with a decline in student enrollment since about 2003. When Douglas Hall is removed, the university will still have about 2,000 unoccupied beds, Baker said.
If an influx of students enroll to live on campus, they can live in the Stevenson South Towers, officials said Thursday.