DeKALB – Northern Illinois University has been awarded $15 million to help build its $23 million Northern Illinois Center for Community Sustainability.
According to a news release Wednesday, Gov. JB Pritzker announced Wednesday he's awarded $500 million in capital funding for the Discovery Partners Institute and the Illinois Innovation Network, which earmarks $25 million for NIU's center. The $23 million, 30,000-square-foot research facility was announced in October 2018 as part of NIU's new partnership with the Illinois Innovation Network, a group of research centers with a mission to drive economic growth in Illinois and address global issues in partnership with local businesses, farmers and communities.
Early construction is scheduled to begin in 2021, with an aim to have the facility open by 2023, the release said.
"We are very excited by Gov. Pritzker's dedication to this project," NIU President Lisa Freeman said. "NICCS will strengthen Illinois by creating locally based innovative solutions focused on improving food systems and water resource management in a world facing shrinking natural resources, climate change and increasing urbanization."
The research center will be built on the university's west campus, north of the NIU Convocation Center, and include classrooms, laboratories, exhibits and collaboration space for work within the network, and in private sectors, according to the release.
Now that the governor announced funding for the center, which covered about two-thirds of total project costs, NIU will move forward with formal planning and design, the release states.
The university will contribute the equipment, land and amenities, and invite opportunities for partnership with the facility. DeKalb County Community Gardens founder Dan Kenney has said he hopes to create a community food and education center – similar to the Genoa Area Community Food Hub, but bigger – in conjunction with NIU's research facility.
The center for community sustainability will focus on food systems innovations and food production; water resource management for agriculture, industrial and personal consumption; and climate change adaptation with a focus on biodiversity, ecosystem restoration, environmental maintenance and response to extreme climate events.
Students and scholars will be able to utilize the center for research and policy to apply research to local communities.
The Illinois Innovation Network has 15 hubs across Illinois, one at each of the state's 13 public universities, an innovation center in Peoria, and its flagship, the Discover Partners Institute in downtown Chicago.