22, No. 16, March 20, 2003
At its March 13
meeting, the UI Board of Trustees authorized university officials to
negotiate the sale of up to 1,300 acres of farmland near Allerton Park
to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for prairie restoration.
Under the terms
of the Allerton endowment, the sale is contingent upon the approval
of the president of the university, the alumni association and the chief
justice of the Illinois Supreme Court.
President James J. Stukel told the board that alumni board president
Joel Weisman has approved the sale, but the university is awaiting a
decision from Chief Justice Mary Ann McMorrow.
According to the measure passed by the trustees, the number of acres
to be sold will depend upon an appraisal of its value.
Allerton Park was donated to the university in 1946. The gift included
the mansion, 1,500 acres of surrounding garden and woodland and 3,775
acres of nearby farmland.
Turning the farmland back into prairie would be "a really substantial
addition to a wonderful prairie ecoregion," Chancellor Nancy Cantor
said, adding that the university would continue to lease the remaining
acreage as farmland.
Two Piatt County residents spoke against the proposal, including James
Reed, who presented a petition that he said contained 1,000 signatures
opposing the sale.
Reed said the university would obtain more revenue from leasing the
farmland than from investing the proceeds from its sale. Moreover, converting
the farmland into prairie would harm the local economy by decreasing
property tax revenue.
Charles Morris, fire chief for the Mid-Piatt Fire Protection District,
expressed concern about the dangers posed by controlled burns that are
used to maintain prairie land. Allerton Park, which includes an adjoining
4-H camp, has limited access by road, making evacuation difficult in
an emergency, Morris said.
"Prairie burns are unpredictable," Morris said. "…
We have grave safety concerns already at Allerton Park. Don’t
compound the problems by adding more safety issues."
Cantor responded that the university and the Illinois Department of
Natural Resources have developed a fire-management plan. Cantor also
said that tax payments will continue for several years and that Piatt
County will receive a one-time grant equivalent to 7 percent of the
land’s selling price.
The trustees also approved an architectural design for the East Campus
Center, a complex containing retail businesses and apartments that will
be located near Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.
The trustees authorized agreements to lease the land to JSM Management,
the project’s developer, for 50 years with an option for 25 additional
years. The board also authorized an intergovernment agreement with the
city of Urbana converting Gregory Place to a pedestrian mall. The city
will relocate parking meters on California Avenue to a nearby site.
The East Campus Center, which will be funded and managed by JSM, will
face Gregory Place between Nevada and Oregon streets.
The $5 million first phase of the project will include 21,000 square
feet of retail space on the first level, topped by three floors and
51,000 square feet of "luxury apartments" with underground
parking for 60 vehicles.
Robert Todd, associate vice president for administration and human resources,
said the development will replace retail businesses that were lost when
the university purchased property for the Chemical and Life Sciences
"This will compensate the city for taking that land off the tax
rolls," Todd said. "It’s also a way for us to provide
additional quality housing close to campus."
The first phase of the project is scheduled for completion in August
2004. The second phase will begin "when it becomes economically
viable," Todd said.
The trustees also approved a contract that named Gilbane Building Co.
construction manager for the $77 million renovation and expansion of
the Intramural Physical Education Building (IMPE) and Campus Recreation
Center East (CRCE).
The original contract proposal included a $3.5 million fee for all services.
However, the fee was reduced to $589,000 and covered only work on the
design portion of the project. A contract covering Gilbane’s remaining
work on the project will be presented at the trustees’ May meeting.
Trustees approve sale of Allerton,
design for east campus retail center
Sonya Booth, UIC News Bureau