Thursday, December 5, 2019

Preliminary plan for downtown university campus emerges

Early plans for a new downtown university campus to be shared by the University of Illinois Springfield and Southern Illinois University have emerged, with a local economic development group suggesting a location on the business district’s eastern edge.

The Springfield-Sangamon Growth Alliance has proposed a university campus to be located between Second and Fourth streets to the west and east and Washington and Monroe streets to the north and south. While SSGA interim president and CEO Josh Collins said the proposal is “extremely preliminary,” it is to the point where the group has been quietly meeting with property owners within the potential project’s scope.

Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder and other city officials were also briefed on the proposal in late November. “There’s no concrete proposal on anything. Everything’s kind of in draft one or draft .01,”

In August 2018, UIS purchased downtown Springfield’s Innovate Springfield, a business and social innovation incubator. It was then 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 Chicago-based research institute. While the hub is housed at Innovate Springfield’s offices on the Old State Capitol Plaza, university officials have been open about their intentions to find a bigger space in downtown Springfield for the expanded hub and other university programs.

In a statement, UIS spokesman Derek Schnapp said “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.” “We’ve had some discussions with SIU representatives about possible collaborations that would enhance further economic development in the region,” Schnapp said. “As discussions continue, we look forward to collaborating with local and state legislative leaders.”

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on December 4, 2019.

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