Students respond to planned renovations to Altgeld Hall

Students+give+their+response+to+the+renovations+of+Altgeld+Hall+that+was+approved+in+March+2019+by+the+University+of+Illinois+Board+of+Trustees.+

Jacob Slabosz

Students give their response to the renovations of Altgeld Hall that was approved in March 2019 by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees.

By Lisa Chasanov, Staff Writer

Altgeld Hall has occupied its spot at the northwest corner of the University’s Main Quad since 1897. For many generations of University students, its distinctive appearance and daily chime concerts have been essential to the campus identity and experience. 

As part of an initiative called “With Illinois,” the College of LAS is funding the renovation and restoration of Altgeld as well as the demolition and replacement of Illini Hall with a new facility.

Altgeld’s last set of large-scale renovations occurred in 1956, according to the project’s website

In the view of Aden Weiss, freshman in Engineering, the upcoming renovations should fix some of the building’s problems while keeping its historical features intact. 

“I would like them to keep the historic look of the architecture, but maybe make it a little easier to navigate and renovate the staircases so there aren’t cracks in them,” Weiss said. “I’d also like better lighting in some places.” 

Allie Pappas, junior in Education, echoed some of these concerns when describing her experience as a teaching assistant in Altgeld.

“If they renovate Altgeld, I’d want to see better signage. Maybe fix the bathrooms too,” Pappas said. “Also, when I look around in classrooms, it’s like ‘Oh, a broken window here! Something else broken there!’”

According to Steven Breitwieser, manager of communications and external relations for the University’s Facilities and Services, the project is not only endorsed by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees, but by individuals across the entire campus community. 

In March 2019, the University of Illinois Board of Trustees approved the design phases for the Altgeld Hall Renovation and Illini Hall Replacement Project. The project is being supported by the University, state and through the generous giving of alums, friends and corporate donors,” Breitwieser said in an email. “The work is anticipated to begin next year.” 

The demolition of Illini Hall, according to the project website, is necessary in order to meet the current needs of the University. The website describes the facility’s limitations as “too extensive to overcome through renovation.”

“The new six-story building for mathematics and statistics and data science center will expand programs and modernize spaces to provide world-class teaching and foster groundbreaking research,” Breitwieser said. “The University is also coordinating with the Illinois State Historic Preservation Office to salvage significant elements of the facility for potential reuse by various campus and University-related entities.”

Senturran Elangovan, freshman in Engineering, said the limitations of a building should be weighed with its sentimental value to the University community.

“If a building cannot be saved at all, then you have to tear it down, but if it’s something special and it has a deep connection to the University heritage, I don’t think it should be torn down,” Elangovan said. 

To Jerry Shi, junior in LAS, decisions like this one need to be made with attention to several factors.

“With renovations, there’s a balance that the University needs to strike. I think I’m more in favor of prioritizing the comfort of students,” Shi said. “It’s still important to maintain that historical value as much as possible, but I guess we should prioritize modernity.”

 

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