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In several years, Western Illinois University will say goodbye to its cramped building on 60th Street in Moline and move into a sprawling, scenic campus on the Mississippi River.
WIU expanded from its main campus in Macomb to Moline in 1960 and has held classes in various locations.
In 1994, WIU bought and renovated the multi-story former IBM building at 60th Street and John Deere Road for $4 million. Three years later, Western taught its first students in Moline in 18 classrooms. At the time, it was sufficient to meet the needs of aspiring students.
Over the past several years, however, needs of area students have grown and the number of students taking classes has outgrown that 60,000-square-foot building. The number of students attending in recent years has been about 1,200, and, with the new campus, enrollment is expected to double to 3,000.
The new 20-acre riverfront campus near 3300 River Drive is expected to cost about $71 million. The first phase of the three-building campus is the projected $15 million remodeling and rehabilitation of the 60,000-square-foot former Deere Technology Center. It will be the easternmost building on the new campus, which is planned to encompass 190,000 square feet of building space.
Buildings will face the Mississippi River, and there will be an access road south of River Drive. The scenic campus will have an emphasis on environmentally friendly design and construction.
There is lots of preparation work, however, before building begins. Moline officials are applying for a $900,000 federal grant to help pay for the $1.9 million cost of installing water and sewer lines and an all-weather road. State and federal law requires Moline to perform an archaeological study of property on River Drive since the project has received state and federal money. The study won't delay construction.
Money already has started coming in to help pay for the project. The university has received $200,000 from the state to complete the preliminary design of the former tech center and received $250,000 through a Housing and Urban Development bill recently passed in Congress.
In September, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich pledged $14 million to refurbish the tech center into the first classroom building for the riverfront campus and the state awarded the university $2.4 million for expansion planning.
Even though the campus will cost a pretty penny, economic forecasters say construction will fuel the economy and afterwards WIU-QC will give back to the area through new jobs and students deciding to stay in the area rather than moving away. The new WIU campus would provide about 200 jobs and is expected to translate into a $48 million annual economic impact to the area, said Mary Lagerblade, past chairman for the Illinois Quad City Chamber of Commerce.
The focus of the university's Quad-Cities location won't change with a new campus. Nearly 40 full-time and 21 adjunct faculty will continue to teach classes to upper-division students in this area, reportedly the largest in the country without a public university.