18 months in the making, improvements will debut at Homecoming.
As part of the Homecoming festivities on Saturday, October 26, Northern Illinois University will welcome alumni and current students to the renovated first floor of the Holmes Student Center.
The renovated space will eventually include two new restaurants, a cafe, a take-out convenience store, a new bookstore, offices for major student organizations and services, as well as tens of thousands of square feet of space dedicated to places where students can relax, gather, collaborate and celebrate.
“Calling this space remodeled is truly a disservice,” said NIU President Dr. Lisa Freeman. “It has been completely redesigned, reorganized and revitalized. We have transformed an outdated and unwelcoming space into a modern and vibrant center of life on campus.”
The redesign focused specifically on creating a place that students will be excited to visit.
“Our goal from the start was to give students somewhere they’ll want to come, somewhere they’ll feel comfortable, whether it’s just to take a break from class, attend a club meeting, or enjoy a few wings while watching a ball game with friends,” said NIU Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Kelly Wesener-Michael. “Student input has been critical to the vision that has emerged for this project. We think it delivers on that vision and we’re excited to see it come to life.”
One of the project’s priorities was to provide students with new dining options, including franchises they already know and love. To achieve this goal, the space includes a Starbucks, which will open on Saturday, October 26, and a Qdoba Tex-Mex restaurant (expected to open March 2020).
The students also expressed a desire for a “sports bar”, which the designers incorporated into the new Huskie Den. With 12,000 square feet of space spread over two levels, the restaurant can accommodate over 200 students. It will offer a menu ranging from gourmet burgers to hot wings to fried cheesecake, all served in an atmosphere that includes a dozen televisions for watching sports, 12 tournament-quality pool tables and a stage for entertainment. live. Starting next semester, the Huskie Den will open a bar that will serve beer and wine in the evenings.
The focus on quality dining goes beyond a desire to expand student dining options, says Wesener-Michael. “Eating is a communal experience that helps bring people together, and we hope faculty and staff will take advantage of these new places and the opportunity to get to know students in a new environment.”
Although the dining options attract curious (and hungry) students, chances are the many different lounges and workspaces in the space will encourage them to stick around. There are places to curl up in a chair and read, spaces to work on group projects, and spaces to hold meetings. In total, the first floor now has over 8,000 square feet of lounge space (compared to 4,000 in the previous layout), including a new transit lounge adjacent to a take-out convenience store dubbed The Depot. A new 6,000 square foot bookstore, Huskie Books and Gear, is also adjacent to the Transit Lounge.
All lounges feature sleek, modern furniture, which has been selected with student input. These range from ultra-modern versions of wingback chairs, to conversation pits, to tiered upholstered benches. Almost all of the furniture is moveable, allowing students to rearrange it as they see fit throughout the day.
During the warmer months of the year, the patio outside the newly created entrance on the ground floor of the building will extend the lounge space outside. This entrance also reflects the university’s commitment to making the entire ground floor accessible to people with disabilities. In addition to the ground-level entrance, the space will feature two new elevators (in the Bookstore and Huskie Den) and ramps throughout to provide easy access to all areas for all visitors.
The new student organization and engagement suite (The OASIS) provides an additional 10,000 square feet of space for students to congregate. Notable for its relative lack of walls, the space is designed specifically to encourage collaborative working. It includes large tables for group projects, conference rooms that can accommodate a dozen or more people, and a presentation space that can hold more than 100. All of these facilities will be made available to student organizations.
OASIS will also be home to key student organizations including the Student Association (the student government group that is part of NIU’s shared governance) and the Campus Activities Council. The Student Affairs Division will also staff an office in this area to provide students with easy access to all the supports and services they offer. All of these organizations will officially move into the OASIS during the winter break in December and January.
While the look and feel of the renovated space – from furniture to technology – is decidedly contemporary, Chairman Freeman hopes old-timers will find a modern take on what they’ve loved most.
“I speak with alumni who have wonderful memories of attending the student union,” Dr. Freeman said. “It was such an important part of their experience, and I’m very happy that we’re bringing this opportunity back to the current generation of Huskies.”
The university has pushed back the building’s opening schedule. As a result, the new Starbucks and The Depot convenience stores will operate limited hours through the end of the semester as staff are added and trained. The same will be true for the Huskie Den after it opens on November 11.
“We wanted to open as soon as possible for our current students, but we are also very excited to show the building this weekend to former students who will appreciate what a transformation it has been,” said Dr. . Free man.
“I am so grateful to the many people on our campus who have worked so hard to make this dream a reality,” Freeman added. “It has been a wonderful collaboration between Student Affairs and Finance & Facilities, and they can be very proud of the end result.”
Northern Illinois University is a nationally recognized, student-centered public research university with expertise that benefits its region and spans the globe in a wide variety of fields, including the sciences, humanities, arts , business, engineering, education, health and law. Through its main campus in DeKalb, Illinois, and student and professional training centers in Chicago, Hoffman Estates, Naperville, Oregon, and Rockford, NIU offers more than 100 degree programs while serving a student body diverse and international of approximately 17,000 people.
Media Contact: Joseph King