Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Downtown university plan floated

The Springfield Sangamon County Growth Alliance is pitching a major university presence in downtown Springfield that sources say would involve the University of Illinois Springfield, Southern Illinois University and perhaps the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana.

Plans aren't concrete, but the first public meetings to unveil ideas are expected in January, said Josh Collins, interim president and CEO of the alliance, a public-private economic development group. Collins confirmed that the alliance has contacted property owners in the area. "I would say this is very preliminary right now," Collins said. "There will be at least two public meetings on this, plus other outreach efforts to property owners and businesses. ... I would say there is an anticipation to have more formalized concepts, hopefully, in the first quarter of 2020.

In an email, UIS spokesman Derek Schnapp wrote that the university wants a new location for Innovate Springfield, a business incubator now located near the Old State Capitol that is part of a so-called innovation hub being developed by the University of Illinois that is aimed at helping entrepreneurs. "The university is considering various options for a new and larger location for the downtown hub that includes an expanded Innovate Springfield and additional activities with funding for construction and/or renovation to be provided in part by a recent legislative appropriation that includes $15 million for the UIS hub," Schnapp wrote. "We've had some discussions with SIU representatives about possible collaborations that would enhance further economic development in the region. As discussions continue, we look forward to collaborating with local and state legislative leaders."

This story appeared in the Illinois Times on December 3, 2019.

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