Campus pledges $27 million in student funding to renovate Altgeld Hall

Altgeld Hall on a snowy evening.

Altgeld Hall on a snowy evening.

By Samantha Jones Toal

The renovation of Altgeld Hall is coming closer to reality after a campus committee conditionally approved allocating $27 million in student funding to modernize and upgrade the iconic building.

The Academic Facilities Maintenance Fund Assessment (AFMFA) Oversight Committee approved the amounts for fiscal years 2020 to 2021 contingent upon the university securing the remainder of funds from campus, the state, donor gifts, and other sources.

The renovation of Altgeld could be part of a larger project for both Altgeld and Illini Hall, immediately to the west. Modernizing both buildings will cost an estimated $90-$100 million.

The AFMFA Oversight Committee includes student representatives who play a role in deciding how the deferred maintenance funds will be spent. Students at Illinois currently pay $334 per semester into the fund.

“The funding commitment for Altgeld from our students is inspiring, and I deeply appreciate their leadership to help get this important renovation in progress,” said Feng Sheng Hu, the Harry E. Preble Dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. “It’s exciting and meaningful to have student support for this critical project.”

Altgeld will be equipped with contemporary learning spaces, while also maintaining a focus on the roughly 121-year-old building’s historic significance. Mosaics, murals, and woodwork in Altgeld Hall’s library will be restored.

“The committee comprised of student and administration representatives did an outstanding job supporting transformative projects that will contribute to the university’s excellence by upgrading building systems, enhancing energy conservation initiatives, and aiding in accessibility and life safety improvements. These selections will positively impact student experience for generations to come,” said Doris Reeser, assistant director of capital planning, deferred maintenance, and classroom programs at Illinois Facilities & Services.

Other improvements include the restoration of the Mathematics Library by replacing missing glass floor panels in the stacks and restoring the open appearance of the colonnade to the east. If funding permits, the library renovation will also include installation of a back-lit ornamental glass dome to illuminate the atrium properly for the first time since the original glass dome was removed in 1942.

The last time Altgeld Hall received significant renovations was in 1956, when the School of Law moved out of the building and the Department of Mathematics moved in. Mathematics is still located in the building.

Heating and air conditioning will be replaced throughout the building, vastly increasing energy efficiency, improving the classroom environment, and protecting the valuable collection of the Mathematics Library. Furthermore, a second elevator will be added to make all portions of Altgeld Hall accessible.

The renovations to Altgeld Hall will encourage environmental sustainability with the project targeting Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)+ Gold certification through the U.S. Green Building Council.

While campus is still assessing capital improvements to Altgeld, repair work continues on the chimes. The playing chamber room and the playing and practice stands were repaired last summer. Work on the bells, clappers, pulleys, cables, and supporting frame should be completed this upcoming spring semester, according to Steve Breitweiser, manager of external relations for Illinois Facilities & Services.

AFMFA is currently the primary source of funding for deferred maintenance projects on the Urbana campus. Since the program’s inception in 2007, student contributions have addressed more than $200 million in building projects that strive to make a significant impact on teaching and learning environments.

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