NIU to remodel Holmes Student Center

Sam Malone

DeKALB | The Illinois Board of Higher Education approved NIU’s request to renovate the first floor of the Holmes Student Center at its meeting Tuesday.

The Illinois Board of Higher Education approved the first phase of the renovation at St. Xavier University in Chicago.

The project is estimated to cost $20 million, and all funds for the renovation are available. NIU budgeted about $100 million for the renovation of the entire building but submitted just phase one, which is for the first floor renovations, to the board in August.

One goal of the renovation is to give students a reason to stay on campus on the weekends. Alan Phillips, vice president of administration and finance, said this is being addressed by integrating the Huskie Den and MLK Commons to change the flow of the building.

“The next step is for design work to be done,” said Phillips. “Right now, we have a concept of how we want to utilize the space, and now, we need to find architects to make that happen.”

Phillips said the bidding and design process could take up to a year to complete, and construction will not start until that happens.

He said the goal of the renovation is to make the student center easier to navigate and more of a central feature of NIU.

The Illinois Board of Higher Education discussed NIU’s need to remodel and reintegrate student life prior to approving the project.

Sophomore business major Glaisha Segura said the Holmes Student Center is easy to get lost in, and she looks forward to seeing what will be done to change that.

One changes will be a greater focus on the Blackhawk Cafe, located on the ground floor of the Holmes Student Center.

“I think the Holmes Student Center is the easiest building to get lost in on campus,” Segura said. “It’s like trying to navigate yourself through a puzzle or maze, and the university should really consider that with the new model.”

While this renovation is only focused on the first floor of the Holmes Student Center, Phillips said NIU hopes to remodel the entire building in the future. With the first floor renovation, there will be a shift in focus and use for the building, including a new mix of retail and food vendors.

Phillips said he hopes the renovation will make the student center a more inviting place and is a priority because it directly involves students. He said with this renovation, NIU hopes to move student leadership organizations back to the Holmes Student Center.

“This is, in fact, the student center,” Phillips said. “We want to invigorate and revitalize that space to bring students back.”

Segura said she is glad NIU is making this a priority as it is such a central part of campus life. Along with reintroducing student life to the student center, the renovation will handle necessary facility upgrades and modernize the building.

Segura said she believes campus will benefit by having a more upgraded center, as it will draw more students in.

“No one in college wants to spend their time wandering around an outdated building,” Segura said. “There have been times when I wanted to go to events in Holmes [Student Center] and couldn’t find them, so I just decided not to attend.”

Phillips said NIU officials understand this problem, which is another reason for prioritizing this project.

NIU has a design concept in mind and will be beginning the next steps promptly, Phillips said.

“We’re excited to be moving forward and to have the opportunity to serve our students in a better way,” Phillips said. “We’re eager to get started. We’ve spent money on housing and other projects, but this is so close to students and it is definitely a priority.”