Stevens building advances construction

By Lindsey Salvatelli

DeKALB  The construction delay of the Stevens Building resulted in nearly $2 million in unexpected costs.

The project, which is managed by the Illinois Capital Development Board, was delayed from June 2015 to July 2016 because of the state budget impasse. When completed, the building will be the new home of the Department of Anthropology and School of Theatre and Dance.

In January 2012, former Gov. Pat Quinn authorized $10.3 million for the Stevens Building and Cole Hall projects, according to a Sept. 17, 2014, NIU Today article. NIU received an additional $15.5 million for the Stevens project June 30 after the state budget passed.

In November 2015, an $80,000 project to heat the Stevens Building during the cold months transformed into a $300,000 agreement that enclosed the building to prevent $1 million in weather-related damages, said Alan Phillips, former vice president for administration and finance, during a Feb. 18, 2016, Finance, Facilities and Operations Committee meeting.

Last November, construction crews visited the site to reassess costs and logistical changes.

“I’m not sure what the breakdown is of how much of that was deterioration on the site or how much of that was other pricing impact because of the year delay, but overall, it was about a $2 million impact due to the delay,” said John Heckmann, associate vice president of facilities management and campus services.

Kendall Thu, Department of Anthropology chair, said although the project was able to resume in July, contractors had to re-submit subcontractor bids, evaluate materials left on-site before construction was stopped and adjust their claims to account for an increase in material costs which took three to five months.

“None of this is NIU’s fault. It’s all the state,” Thu said.

Heckmann said portions of the building that are dedicated to classrooms and learning environments could be operable by fall 2017. However, the lobby would likely remain under construction but would hopefully be completed by spring 2018.

“They’re about half done now,” Thu said. “They should be done, I would guess, sometime late in this year, and then, at the very latest, I’d expect us to move in the spring, but don’t hold anybody to that because you never know what the state might do. If the state government shuts down again, then it will stop.”

The construction of the Stevens Building began Sept. 22, 2014, with a ground-breaking ceremony attended by Quinn, according to a Sept. 25, 2014, NIU Today article.

The project includes renovations of an existing wing and the building of two additional wings.

Before the construction shutdown, it was anticipated that the building would be completed this March.

The School of Anthropology and the School of Theatre and Dance have had to overcome logistical burdens to maintain courses.

“That just means we have to live [in Grant Tower South] longer,” Thu said. “That contributes to morale problems [because] we’re marginalized out here. We’re living in an old dormitory. We don’t get the kind of student traffic that we’d get in the Stevens Building because it’s centrally located.”

Thu said professors and teaching assistants use the Founders Memorial Library to meet with students because of the distance between department offices and classrooms.

“We’re spread all across town — not across campus but across town,” said Alexander Gelman, School of Theatre and Dance director.

The department’s primary performance base is at Huntley Middle School, and scenic and electrical shops are located at a site on Lincoln Highway near Peace Road.

“Not only faculty but [also] students have to shuttle among all of these locations just to get their daily classes and production work done,” Gelman said.

Despite the logistical issues both colleges have endured, the department chairs remain optimistic about the building’s completion.

“The silver lining is that we are going to move into a state-of-the-art building,” Gelman said. “Moving into that building is going to be so exciting. Everybody here is thrilled about that.”

Lindsey Salvatelli is a staff reporter. She can be reached at [email protected]