New Opportunities for businesses at UIS

Retail, housing developments in progress

UIS is in the process of hiring private developers to create university living space on and off campus, as well as to bring new retail options to the university. In the near future students can expect a new living facility on 11th street with 100 beds and retail, as well as housing in downtown Springfield intended for graduate interns who are working in the city.

Both the on-campus and downtown projects are expected to develop extremely quickly. The downtown project, according to Assistant Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Van Vieregge, will be done as soon as possible.

“We have three developers that are looking at property downtown right now…naturally we would want it as quick as possible,” said Vieregge, adding, “we’re optimistic that something could maybe be started this year, and ready sometime in 2016.”

Joshua Collins, The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce Director of Business and Community Development stated, “We compiled a list of over 100 development companies that specialize in urban housing development and essentially called the companies to see if there was any interest.” Collins also mentioned that he is hopeful for a groundbreaking this year.

Regarding the on-campus project, University of Illinois Foundation Assistant Vice President for Real Property and Financial Services Kevin Noland said that, while having more housing and retail by fall of 2016 is the goal, it is “fairly ambitious.”

The foundation recently heard proposals from three different private developers, each with their own vision of how UIS should grow. He described the campus as in a “growth mode,” and believes the addition of a bar and grill to the campus community “would be great.”

Both developments would be privately developed and owned. This is a method for the university to provide additional living options to students without having to pay for the entire development. Vieregge claimed, “Our housing is so new that we have a high rate of debt on it that we can’t afford to build something ourselves right now.”

A major issue for private developers looking to create and lease housing for university students is the schedule. While this would not be as much of an issue for downtown graduate housing, as those students would likely work through the summer at their jobs, it is challenging for developers to offer a bi-semester lease and turn a profit.

Noland stated that, while originally slated for a 12-month lease, a bi-semester agreement was not off the table. The lease, along with the price, must obviously compare to what is already offered by the university. According to Noland, “The developers know what we charge, it will be competitive.”

Vieregge pointed out that “We have about over 250 graduate interns that have internships at the capitol downtown and a lot of them expressed interest that they would like to live close to where they work so they could bike or they could walk.” Vieregge also mentioned that “A lot of [graduate students] only come to campus once a week for class…so they’re not here much, so if they were closer to their work it would be advantageous for them.”

UIS has sorely needed new living options, as in the fall of 2015 campus was around 97.5 percent occupied. The new developments could potentially alleviate some of the spacing concerns; Vieregge speculated, “as we get more freshmen and transfer students, some of the graduate students could live across the street.”

Additional housing developments could also be useful to the city itself. Joshua Collins stated, “The employers in our community want to see a more vibrant downtown and be a place where young professionals want to live and stay.”

UIS is not necessarily stopping with these two projects, either. Vieregge also mentioned that if these projects do well and the university enrollment continues to trend upward, it would be even easier to entice developers to build university property.