Demolition underway at Illini Hall

Workers make way for a new building as part of the Altgeld and Illini Hall Project
Excavator demolishing Illini Hall
A view of the west side of Illini Hall in the early stages of demolition. The site is expected to be mostly cleared by the end of March. (Photo by Fred Zwicky.)

Demolition is underway at Illini Hall, marking a key stage in the $192 million Altgeld and Illini Hall Project to advance learning and research spaces in mathematics, statistics, and data sciences at the University of Illinois.

Crews from Alpine Demolition Services are tearing down the 116-year-old building to make way for the construction of a new 140,000-square-foot facility. Substantial completion of the demolition phase of the project is expected by the end of March.  

Due to the demolition site’s close proximity to other buildings, including the Student Services Arcade Building and the Turner Student Services Building, much of Illini Hall—particularly the roof and upper floors—is being gradually pulled apart by a high reach demolition crane to minimize the impact on surrounding areas. The work can be viewed via live video stream.

“On the campus, we don’t do a lot of demolition work, and what we do isn’t often in the middle of campus proper, so close to the quad,” said Facilities & Services project manager Kevin Price. “So, we are very careful about taking things down, particularly one that is surrounded by structures so closely as this one is. We’re bringing it down in sections because we don’t want a lot of vibrations and a lot of impact to surrounding structures.”

Once the building is leveled, the original foundation will be excavated and filled with gravel to stabilize the site before construction of the new building begins. The new Illini Hall will include a 4,614-square-foot auditorium along with almost a dozen other new classrooms ranging in size from about 500 to 1,000 square feet. The new building will contain four classrooms on the first floor for campuswide use and seven third floor classrooms for mathematics and statistics classes.

Rendering of Illini Hall
A conceptual rendering of the exterior of the new Illini Hall that will replace the original structure, viewed from the southeast. (CannonDesign.)

The second floor of the new Illini Hall will also be home to a new data science center as part of the Champaign-Urbana hub of the Illinois Innovation Network. This area will house a variety of lecture and meeting spaces as well as offices.

Also on the schedule for this spring are the initial stages of the Altgeld Hall renovation. The building’s exterior will be renovated first, with the most striking work coming to the iconic bell tower. It will be largely disassembled and reconstructed. Interior renovations will follow, including new classroom, research, tutoring, and student lounge space.

The launch of the project has drawn statewide interest, with Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker issuing a statement through the Capital Development Board (CDB)—which is overseeing the project in close collaboration with the university—about the project’s wide implications. The funding is made possible by $100 million from the bipartisan Rebuild Illinois Capital program, in conjunction with $40 million from University of Illinois System’s Illinois Innovation Network and $52 million in institutional contributions and private donations.

“Our historic, bipartisan Rebuild Illinois Capital plan leaves no aspect of infrastructure untouched—roads, bridges, transit systems, and educational facilities included,” Pritzker said. “I couldn’t be happier to announce a joint investment from the state and our institutional partners to completely restore Altgeld Hall and construct a new facility to replace Illini Hall at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus. From a state-of-the-art data science center to new lecture halls and classrooms, this project will provide UIUC students with the first-rate facilities they deserve as they embark on their educational journeys.”

“It’s amazing to see site work commence for the Altgeld and Illini Hall Project after years of careful planning and preparation,” said Venetria K. Patton, the Harry S. Preble Dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. “We are taking steps to accommodate all the needs of the departments of Mathematics and Statistics during the process so that all affected faculty and staff can continue to carry out our academic mission during the work. We’re looking forward to the day when Altgeld Hall is modernized and we’re greeted by a new Illini Hall.”

Added University of Illinois System President Tim Killeen: “This project is a credit to partnerships that prioritize financial commitments that make modern facilities and infrastructure a reality. When completed this project will attract talented people and drive economic development. We are grateful to Governor Pritzker, state agencies and the Legislature for their collaboration on this state-of-the-art innovation center on the Urbana campus, which creates a launch pad for innovation and new companies, serving the public interest.”

UIUC Chancellor Robert J. Jones said the commencement of work at Illini Hall is an historic moment for the entire university.

“These new, innovative, tech-enabled spaces will rejuvenate the core of campus and become home to current and future generations of students and faculty pursuing excellence in data sciences and advanced analytics,” Jones said. “These bold investments in our people and our programs will provide unparalleled educational experiences and deliver innovative research that improves lives and changes the world for the better.”

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Dave Evensen, with contributions from Facilities & Services and the Capital Development Board