Don’t expect new Norris anytime soon


Brian Meng/Daily Senior Staffer

A University Commons model. Don’t expect the real thing anytime soon.

Alan Perez, Campus Editor

More than two years ago, Patricia Telles-Irvin, the vice president for student affairs, stood beside a big glass box draped by a white cloth. She unveiled a model of what was to be the new student center: a luxurious $150 million project that would expand usable space by 21 percent and, administrators hoped, strengthen Northwestern’s sense of community.

Today, that model still sits on the ground floor of the Norris University Center, where renovations by the new dining provider have yet to be completed.

The University Commons, originally projected to begin construction in 2019, will not come anytime soon. Administrators haven’t secured a naming donor, and have stalled new building projects indefinitely.

“Anticipate us pausing for a bit,” Craig Johnson, senior vice president for business and finance, told Evanston officials last week. “We don’t have any plans. They sort of crescendoed, they hit a point. Now we’re looking at what the next phase looks like.”

Trouble began last year, when proposed plans to move student groups into the Jacobs Center seemed less feasible than anticipated, and the predicted cost of building a new student center grew 20 percent to $180 million. At a community dialogue earlier this month, Telles-Irvin told students the University was still seeking donors.

Norris is what some call the epicenter of student life. The building houses the offices of many student groups, and is where all go to do business with the Student Organization Finance Office. It’s also where many students go to meet for class projects and extracurricular activities.

The plans are the latest to be cut or delayed by administrators due to the budget deficit. University administrative units were told to slash 10 percent of their operating budgets and academic units 5 percent. Some employees in the facilities department overseeing construction projects were also among the 80 layoffs in July.

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