Monday, February 4, 2019

UIS moving forward with downtown plans despite SIU proposal

Despite a proposal unveiled last week that would allocate funds for another public university to build a campus in downtown Springfield, officials from the University of Illinois Springfield say they are continuing to move forward unimpeded with plans for an increased downtown presence.

Last August, the university acquired business and social innovation incubator Innovate Springfield, which was founded in 2014 as a subsidiary to the Community Foundation, but with UIS squarely in mind as a future repository. Soon after, the university was awarded the first hub of the Illinois Innovation Network, a University of Illinois system-led initiative meant to foster economic growth through research and innovation by connecting satellite hubs spread across the state with the flagship Discovery Partners Institute, a research institute to be based in Chicago.

More than $500 million was appropriated toward the statewide initiative in the fiscal year 2019 state budget, approved by lawmakers last year. Though most of it will go toward the construction of the Chicago-based institute, at least $15 million has been set aside for UIS to build a hub somewhere in downtown Springfield.

Innovate Springfield remains at 15 S. Old State Capitol Plaza, but university officials have made clear their intention to move into a larger space.

In addition to the innovation hub, Chancellor Susan Koch said other programs could make the move to a new downtown space. “We haven’t made final decisions, but we really believe there are some other entities that being downtown would be a great match for them,” Koch said. While cautioning that nothing is yet conclusive, Koch said moving the university’s Illinois legislative staff intern program and NPR Illinois have been discussed.

Koch said university leaders are trying to strike the “right balance” between having a robust downtown presence and increasing the vitality of the main campus.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on February 2, 2019.

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