Plan for new buildings set

Tina Peng

Construction of a new music building and an art lawn on the southeastern part of campus could begin in two to three years, according to a plan released Wednesday by university officials.

The plan calls for a new music building to be built in two wings, one attached to Pick-Staiger Concert Hall and the other to the Regenstein Hall of Music, on top of the existing parking lot. The new arts lawn area will be between the Theatre and Interpretation Center, Block Museum of Art, Pick-Staiger and the new music building.

Construction of the new music building will cost more than $50 million, but the two to three year estimate is “absolutely” realistic, said Toni-Marie Montgomery, dean of the School of Music. Previously, Northwestern officials had declined to give a timeline for the music building’s construction because of a lack of major donors.

“We have identified (private) donors and have begun the process of actually speaking to some of the individuals,” she said.

Other long-term goals identified in the university’s plan include building an addition to Norris University Center and replacing South Campus’ existing two-level parking structure with a larger garage farther west, although there is no timetable or cost estimate for these additions, according to Ron Nayler, associate vice president for facilities management.

The addition to Norris is part of a long-term plan, Nayler said, as officials continue fund-raising efforts and seeking student input for plans.

“We actually started raising funds for it a while ago,” he said. “We haven’t been able to obtain a significant amount of funds in order to start the project, but it still is a priority for the university.”

University President Henry Bienen told The Daily Wednesday that construction depends on how quickly funds can be raised and other considerations, such as city approval and architectural plans, can be settled.

“To have a basic space plan for South Campus is not the same as having architectural drawings,” Bienen said.

The new music building will be divided into two wings to maintain the aesthetic appeal of its lakeside setting, Montgomery said.

“If we put this huge, monstrous building on that surfaced parking lot (and it is) either too high or jutted out too far, it mars the view of the city of Chicago,” she said.

Montgomery said the new music building will physically consolidate the School of Music and allow for more interdisciplinary work.

“The school and the alums have been waiting a long time for this,” she said. “We are ranked one of the top music schools in the U.S. … We also need to look like it.”

The new arts green — which will extend from Pick-Staiger to the parking structure and will be about 90 feet wide — will be surrounded by paths for pedestrians and cars.

“The intent is that in the very long term we would demolish that parking deck, and then the green space could extend all the way from Pick-Staiger right down to the beach, so you’d have this beautiful view coming down the green out to the lake, and then a view of downtown Chicago,” Nayler said.

A South Campus planning committee unanimously chose the current plan from a number of alternatives presented by planning firm Sasaki and Associates, and NU officials will consider feedback before deciding to hold a public meeting about the plan.

Eugene Sunshine, senior vice president for business and finance, said the university can still have an impact on construction plans, including the size and location of the art lawn and any ideas about new garages.

Reach Tina Peng at [email protected]