Local university spends summer making improvements

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Kendall Downing

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Things usually slow down on a college campus during the summer months. But that's not the case at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Work is ramping up now on a number of projects that will increase the university's curb appeal.

That means summer vacation this year is anything but.

"It's a little inconvenient," said senior Andrew Feher.

Feher said he's never seen so much construction work under way on the Carbondale campus.

"There's a lot going on," said SIUC spokesperson Rod Sievers.

Sievers said all the work is needed to make the university more competitive.

"As a university, you can't stand still. You've got to constantly update your facilities," he said.

Crews are gutting three old residence halls to get them ready for demolition. That will happen by the end of the summer. New facilities will eventually replace them.

A pedestrian mall is also in the works. Along with added green space, university administrators said it will give students a new gathering place. It should be complete in a few months.

The improvement with the biggest price tag at nearly $37 million is the student services building. Student fees helped fund that project, slated for completion in June 2013.

"There's a lot of competition out there and if students see that you're trying to make a difference in your facilities and make things better, it's a good thing," Sievers said.

University officials hope the added work will pay off in the long run by bringing in more students and giving those graduating something to make them come back.

"I'm sure being an alumni and coming back, it'll be nice to see the improvements," said Feher.

The cost to demolish the three residence halls is $5.5 million. University housing is an auxiliary enterprise, which means it funds itself. The demolitions are part of a 10-year master housing plan that includes four new residence halls by 2023.

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