Progress continues on new Champaign dining facility and residences

By Meghan O'Kelly

The University is stressing safety as a priority while work continues on the Champaign residential community construction project, which includes the six residence halls and two dining halls between Peabody and Gregory drives.

Contractors are currently rerouting the utilities around the construction site. Before the existing dining halls can be demolished, utilities that are now fed into the two dining buildings and fed out to the six residence halls on the site must be rerouted, said Kirsten Ruby, assistant director of housing for marketing.

The project has also brought changes in pedestrian walkways. Sidewalks near the north and east exits of Garner Hall, as well as the sidewalk closest to the north exit of Weston Hall, are currently blocked by construction fences. The only path into Garner Hall is on the west side of the building – facing First Street – and the crosswalk between Weston and Garner halls is closed. Pedestrians should use the walkway that runs through the Weston Hall courtyard.

“They’re digging a lot around here and we want to make sure everyone is very safe,” Ruby said.

In addition, the Weston Hall bike lot will become part of the construction area for the next two years.

Before Spring Break begins, effected students will need to relocate their bikes to the Snyder Hall lot or the new lot at Barton Hall.

The rerouting of the utilities, demolition of the Gregory Drive and Peabody Drive dining halls and the construction of a new dining hall along with the first wing of a new residence hall are the first steps in a long-range plan to replace all of the residence halls on the site, which may take 15 to 20 years.

“Nothing has been approved beyond the first building and the first wing of the residence hall,” Ruby said of the $76 million project. “The first phase is the only phase we have approval for right now.”

Overall, the project is running on schedule, Ruby said. Construction on the new student dining and residential programs building is expected to start in March. Work on the first wing of the site’s new residence hall will follow this summer.