Illini Hall demolition

Demo Work Kickstarts Years-Long Renovation Plan for Illini and Altgeld Halls

Better get a good peek now, because soon, Illini Hall will be gone.

Photo courtesy of College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

First erected in 1907 as the official University of Illinois YMCA across Wright Street from the venerable Main Quad, Illini Hall is in the process of demolition and replacement. By the end of February 2023 or so, it’ll be gone.

This action also starts the clock on work coming for its cross-street neighbor Altgeld Hall, which will be cleaned up outside and completely renovated inside. The full scope of the project, covering both buildings, is set to conclude in 2026, according to the State of Illinois Capital Development Board (CDB).

“Surrounded by structures”

Illini Hall shares a walkway and small courtyard with close building neighbors, one being the glassy Student Services Arcade Building. These close quarters mean a different style of demolition than a big, messy wrecking ball scene. Instead, a large crane claws away at the masonry at the top of the building.

“On the campus, we don’t do a lot of demolition work, and what we do isn’t often in the middle of campus proper, so close to the quad,” said project manager Kevin Price. “So, we are very careful about taking things down, particularly one that is surrounded by structures so closely as this one is. We’re bringing it down in sections because we don’t a lot of vibrations and a lot of impact to surrounding structures.”

The whole building will come down in weeks, but after that, the site isn’t ready for the next phase yet.

“At that point, the foundations themselves will be taken out, and so that will involve some digging and excavation work. And the former basement will be filled in with gravel in order to stabilize the site,” said Price.

Who was there?

From the University of Illinois Alumni Association, the longest occupant of Illini Hall was the Daily Illini:

From 1938 to 1988, thousands of Illinois students—including Roger Ebert, ’64 MEDIA, Paul Ingrassia, ’72 MEDIA, and Iris Chang, ’89 MEDIA—learned what it meant to be a journalist in the Daily Illini’s subterranean headquarters. “We took a lot of pride in producing a real-world newspaper with all its responsibilities and consequences,” says former DI editor Vanessa Faurie, ’87 MEDIA, MBA ’15. “We took what we did very seriously, but we also had so much fun working, learning and being together.”

In later decades, Illini Hall served as headquarters for the U of I Police Training Institute and the Dept. of Statistics.

But for many alumni, Illini Hall is synonymous with the student newspaper, its longest tenant.

What’s next?

Along with new classrooms in both buildings, the project will include new and renovated lounge, library, and research space in Altgeld Hall, and additional space for the Departments of Mathematics and Statistics in the new Illini Hall. The new Illini Hall will also be home to a new data science center as part of the Champaign-Urbana hub of the Illinois Innovation Network.

College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, “New opportunities taking shape in Altgeld and Illini Hall Project”

Said the CDB, in this message from January 31:

“A new 4,614 square-foot auditorium will be constructed for Illini Hall, along with almost a dozen new classrooms. The new Illini Hall will be designed and constructed to meet LEED Platinum Certification; the highest level of certification possible from the U.S. Green Building Council.”