Renew Moline tours WIU’s construction

Moline community representatives got a glimpse Wednesday into the next chapter of construction and expansion at Western Illinois University-Quad-Cities Campus.

Members of Renew Moline's Project Management Team had a private, hard hat tour of the three buildings being built on west side of the Moline campus. Known as Phase II, the project will add 95,000 square feet of classroom and office space to the campus, which opened in January 2012.

"By comparison, Phase I was 60,000 square feet," said Bill Brewer, Western Illinois' architect. "We're shooting to serve 3,000 students, but not right away."

The university has 1,500 attending classes on the riverfront campus and its original 60th Street campus in Moline.

The Renew committee, made up of community representatives, Renew and city staff and city officials, walked through as construction crews continued to make progress on the major project. While classrooms, offices and student areas were in various degrees of completion, tour participants learned how each space would function and got a feel for what the addition will offer students when it opens for the fall semester in August. 

Brewer, who served as tour guide, said one of the buildings will house students services and admissions. The structures also will house administration, as well as academic programs in the Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Education and Human Services and Fine Arts and Communication.

"The moves create a domino effect," he said, adding that the student services and administration's relocation from the original building will open up space there for other departments, including the College of Business and WQPT, the public television station. The expansion also allows Western to vacate its 60th Street campus. The building, which once housed IBM, will be put up for sale, Brewer said. 

The visitors were especially taken with Room 2222, where the entire exterior wall is made up of windows overlooking the Mississippi River. Located at the end of the skybridge that connects two of the new buildings, Brewer said it likely will be student study area, an events room or public meetings. 

"This design is just absolutely fantastic. It's unlike most college campuses,'' said Jerry Butts, a Renew founding member. "If this doesn't recruit the maximum number of students, I'll be surprised."

The $42 million project was awarded to general contractor Bush Affiliates, LLC of Davenport. It is being funded by the Illinois Jobs Now! capital construction program.

Renew member and Moline Alderman Lori Turner said she was in awe of the quality. "There is nothing but great things on the horizon for the city of Moline,'' she said after the tour.

Also on the hard hat tour was A.J. Loss, president of Bush Construction, who remarked how proud his company is ''to be part of an iconic building in the Quad-Cities."

While the other visitors were impressed by atrium areas, expansive river views, a future clock tower and other design elements, Loss said he always appreciates "all the technology behind the walls that nobody sees."

"Western is always going to do it right ... ," he said. "This is about as high-tech as its going to get."

Brewer said the project is striving to be a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified. Some of the construction elements include cork tile, a vegetated roof, an abundance of natural lighting and a geothermal cooling and heating system, provided by 186 wells dug 300 feet down.