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April 29, 2010

NIU to investigate partnerships to build new residence halls

DeKalb, Ill. — The Northern Illinois University Board of Trustees gave its unanimous support Thursday to pursuing a partnership with a private developer to build new, state-of-the art on-campus housing.

The proposed residence halls would feature private room configurations for up to 1,000 students as the first stage of a comprehensive plan to replace and renovate the university’s aging, on-campus residential housing options.

The goal, the board said, should be to build and open a new residence hall, primarily for new first-year students, as early as the fall of 2012. The new housing would reflect the changes in student expectations since the university opened its last undergraduate residence hall more than 40 years ago.

Today’s students prefer housing options that provide a greater level of independence and privacy than is available in most existing halls at NIU. Any new buildings would feature primarily single rooms with a private bath or two single rooms sharing a private bath. The overall setting, however, would retain the most desirable features of on-campus housing: convenience, security, community and peer support, strong ties to the university and availability of food service.

To minimize cost, the university will explore the use of the same sort of public/private partnership that allowed the NIU to build its Northern View apartments in 2007.

Under that arrangement, a private company would assume the cost of constructing the buildings, but they would be managed by the university. For a period of years, revenue generated by the buildings would pay down the cost, with interest, much like a mortgage on a private home. At the end of a pre-determined period of time, the university would take ownership of the facilities. The committee specifically instructed that an early buy-out option should be part of any such agreement.

Thursday’s action clears the way for the university to begin soliciting proposals from potential partners.

“This is an affordable way for us to address what has been one of the greatest needs on our campus for many years,” said NIU President John Peters. “Competition for students is becoming increasingly intense, and our aging housing stock simply cannot compete with the newer, more modern options being offered by other universities. Simply put, to continue to serve the northern Illinois region, replacing and renovating our on-campus housing to reflect the needs and interests of today’s students is an issue that we must address. ”

NIU will maintain its historical on-campus housing capacity at 6,000 beds Peters said, explaining that the university has embarked on a thorough review of all of its campus housing to determine its viability going forward. 

The board gave its unanimous support to the proposal, and urged the university to move as expeditiously as possible to select a developer and finalize a comprehensive replacement/renovation plan for all university housing.

Media Contact: Joe King, NIU Media Relations and Internal Communications
Phone: (815) 753-4299
Email: joking@niu.edu