DePaul University Newsline > Sections > Campus and Community > State construction grants

DePaul awarded state grants for construction and renovation projects

Grants will be used to support academic success and student life

​​​​​​​​​Students gather in the Schmitt Academic Center

DePaul plans to use state grant funds to reimagine the first floor of the Schmitt Academic Center. (Jeff Carrion/DePaul University)
​​ The ​Illinois Board of Higher Education awarded DePaul $34.2 million in construction grants for projects that promote academic success and improve student life. DePaul is in the process of applying for an additional $8.9 million, which when received will bring the total award amount to $43.1 million.

DePaul plans to use the funds to reimagine the first floor of the Schmitt Academic Center and create a new welcome center, two projects that directly support the university’s retention efforts by providing space for students to gather and access support services. The funds also will be used to remodel a portion of the College of Law in the Lewis and O’Malley buildings. All the planned projects are pending approval from the Board of Trustees.

“These grants represent an opportunity to significantly improve our academic and student spaces, while allowing us to strategically use tuition and other revenue for additional priorities,” says Sherri Sidler, executive vice president and chief financial officer.

DePaul will cover the upfront cost of construction over the next five years, and the state will reimburse the university through the Independent Colleges Capital Investment Grant Program (ICCIGP). The state funding is helping the university offset significant costs for the projects, which were already underway conceptually.

DePaul identified the planned projects based on themes that emerged from the space optimization study that took place last year. Facility Operations — with assistance from DePaul’s Office of Continuous Improvement — facilitated discussions about the current use and needs for space. This work took place over the course of a year, convening groups of stakeholders, including representatives from faculty and staff councils, Student Government Association, each of the colleges, Student Affairs and more. Nearly 300 community members participated in a space-optimization survey as well.

The study found DePaul’s primary needs included space for students to socialize and for informal learning, as well as a welcome center. It found that meeting, gathering and study space made up only 11% of square footage on the Lincoln Park Campus and 8% on the Loop Campus. The study called for a focus on reimagining ground floor spaces to encourage “spontaneous collaboration” and a welcome center that creates an integrated and compelling visitor experience.

Drawing from these recommendations, the Schmitt Academic Center remodel will serve as a gathering place for students, as well as provide students services to support retention efforts. The welcome center’s new home is planned for the first and second floors of Centennial Hall, formally occupied by Whole Foods. It will be a dynamic space to welcome new students and their families. In the College of Law, the grant will support construction of spaces that will elevate academic and experiential learning by modernizing the existing courtroom for mock trials, as well as creating additional student support spaces.

Updates on construction timelines and more will continue in Newsline.