An Illini Future

The construction project for Altgeld Hall, at the corner of Wright Street and Green Street and home to the Alma Mater statue, and replacement of the historic Illini Hall, just across the street, will help define a vital thoroughfare on campus. The work will help take the College of Liberal Art & Sciences (LAS), Department of Mathematics and Statistics, and the campus’ future in data sciences programs and collaborations into the next generation. What’s the role of F&S?

Funding: Deferred Maintenance

F&S uses money from the Academic Facilities Maintenance Fund Assessment (AFMFA) which is funded by student fees to address deferred maintenance (DM) projects. DM accounts for millions of dollars worth of projects that are in need of repair, rehabilitation, or removal.

The AFMFA Oversight Committee approved $27M for the Altgeld Hall renovation.

The committee includes Illinois students and administrators, including Dr. Ehab Kamarah, interim executive director, and ex officio Brad Klein, interim associate director project planning. AFMFA projects prioritizes life safety deficiencies, but also accounts for impacting high-profile buildings, aids in conservation, operations, and maintenance needs, and helps support emerging fields of study.

The Altgeld-Illini Hall project fit perfectly.

“How we use AFMFA funds is extremely critical, and helping fund this project is a tremendous way to improve the core of campus,” said Kamarah. “The committee does its best to properly evaluate all maintenance needs and strategically select projects that help achieve university goals.” In total, the project is expected to cost $192M; $140M comes from the State of Illinois, with the rest of the funding coming from the Office of the Provost and College of LAS.


First off, Altgeld Hall will remain iconic and the bells will still chime across campus for all to hear. The fashionable red shingles atop the chime tower will still shine on sunny days and glow through snowy ones. In fact, the point of the project is to keep much of what remains, while also bringing back Illinois history through restoration of intricate floor mosaics, murals, paintings, and woodwork. A large painted glass dome, featuring greens, ambers, purples, and cobalt blues, will take visitors back to 1896, but without the life safety worries that caused its removal in 1941.

Illini Hall is where much more dramatic work will happen. The current building will be replaced, but not without first salvaging features to save, recycle, or donate. The Illinois State Historic Preservation Office helped consult with the Architectural Review Committee (ARC), which includes F&S leaders from various fields of work. Finding ways to use parts of the past to build anew is always a goal of ARC. A well-known example is the Hallene Gateway, formerly part of the University Hall building (1871-1938), which now prominently sits at the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Illinois Street to welcome students and visitors to the Alice Campbell Alumni Center and water fountain. No large-scale elements like that will appear in the next Illini Hall, but there’s still ways to fold the old in with the new. “Illini Hall will be new construction but offer glimpses of the past,” said Brent Lewis, ARC member and university landscape architect. One feature to deliver on this concept is the use of blackboards throughout the spaces outside classrooms, in hallways and alcoves, or other places where students can collaborate. “Maintaining a cohesive visual identity is paramount, and Illini Hall will go hand-in-hand with older buildings and newer ones, too.”


F&S Capital Programs project managers (PM) help keep construction projects on budget and on schedule for a satisfied customer. PMs put out bids, hold the agreements with contractors, and take consideration of design standards and the needs of the building user, in this case the college of LAS, particularly the departments of mathematics and statistics.

Project manager Mike Stilger is proud to oversee the development, knowing how unique, challenging, and big it is. Even doing what will come first takes care: demolition of Illini Hall. It won’t come down in one grand collapse and a giant dust cloud. Instead, “the first thing we have to do is address the hazardous materials inside the building, like asbestos and lead, which have to be abated. You can’t just take those things to the landfill,” said Stilger. Then, a demolition excavator (sometimes called a “grabber”) can reach out to tear down the façade in little bites. As every piece of metal, wood and other shrapnel come off the structure, each needs to be sorted to sell, recycle, or properly dispose of; this also helps the building gain LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) points to help the project become considered sustainable.