The University of Chicago News Office
October 30, 1998 Press Contact: Larry Arbeiter
(773) 702-8360 (w)

University of Chicago approves $200 million in new buildings and facilities

The Board of Trustees of the University of Chicago has approved sites for four major new facilities–the first concrete step in the University’s Master Plan of capital improvements over the next 10 years.

The new facilities are a large new interdivisional research laboratory for the biological and physical sciences, new dormitories for college students, a new athletics center–the first built on campus in more than 60 years–and a multi-story parking structure.

The planning process is being led by Provost Geoffrey Stone, who is Co-Chair with Trustee Robert Feitler of the Master Planning Steering Committee established a year ago.

“We’ve developed a strategy for campus improvements that addresses several of the University’s greatest facilities needs,” Stone explained. “We have done that in a way that will maintain the University’s rich architectural heritage while serving the primary goal of supporting our research, teaching and student life well into the 21st century.”

With yesterday’s decision by the Board of Trustees, the selection of architectural firms will begin. The planning work was done with the assistance of the architectural firm NBBJ.

This is the fourth time in its 106-year history that the University has prepared a comprehensive master plan. The first plan, led by Henry Ives Cobb in the 1890s, resulted in the central quadrangles; the second, led by Eero Saarinen in the 1950s, produced the Joseph Regenstein Library and the South Campus; and the third, the Sasaki plan of 1979, resulted in the Science Quadrangle.

The new Interdisciplinary Research Institute will provide state-of-the-art facilities for joint research projects at the boundary between the physical and biological sciences. The University has always been known for research that transcends traditional boundaries, and the new institute will continue that tradition into the 21st century. The Institute will be built along 57th Street west of Ellis Avenue and adjacent to the Kersten Physics Learning Center, on a site that is currently occupied by the Whitman and Visual Sciences Laboratories and Phemister Hall.

The two new residence halls will be located near the north side of Regenstein Library starting from Ellis Avenue and continuing along the southern edge of 56th Street and the western edge of University Avenue. Approximately 600 to 700 first-year students will be housed in the new residence halls, which will be built in such a way as to create a quadrangle around the library.

The Ratner Athletics Center will be located on the west side of Ellis Avenue between 55th and 56th streets. Named the Gerald Ratner Athletics Center for the alumnus who recently pledged $15 million toward its $35 million construction cost, this facility will contain two gymnasiums and an Olympic-size swimming pool. The Ratner Center, in addition to providing a modern recreational facility for students and faculty, will establish a gateway to the campus on the north end of Ellis Avenue.

The multi-story parking structure will be located on the south side of 55th Street between Ellis and Greenwood avenues. This location on the edge of campus will help to preserve real estate closer to the center of campus for other activities. The ground floor of the parking garage may be used as either retail or office space to help create appropriate street life around this new campus edge.

As part of the planning process, the University created an inventory of all existing facilities to determine their current and potential uses and identified the academic priorities of the University to decide which projects should be pursued and to define areas of future growth and contraction. The process is continuing by setting guidelines for architectural design and style; setting policies about parking, landscaping and open spaces; and working to ensure the campus is integrated into the surrounding community.

“One of the pleasures of this process has been the discussions and town meetings we’ve held with students, faculty and members of our local community,” Stone said. “We learned from each of them, and the plans we’ve developed are better for their advice.”
Last modified at 03:51 PM CST on Wednesday, June 14, 2000.

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