As an undergraduate living in Wilkins and Manchester, Russ Pande ’96 didn’t even know Cardinal Court existed on the northern edge of campus. Now that the new apartments are standing, Pande can only lament that such housing wasn’t available through ISU when he was obtaining his degree in construction management.

“I’m jealous. Today’s college students have it 100 times better than we did. I wish they’d had this when I was here,” Pande said, adding that he is “glad to see the old way is changing.” He is particularly pleased to be part of such a huge transition at his alma mater.

Pande is an employee of Weis Builders, Inc., a Chicago firm chosen as general contractor for the Cardinal Court project. He was named operations manager for the job that started with demolition in March of 2011.

“It needed to be torn down,” Pande said. The ISU administration agreed, as President Al Bowman noted in his comments at the groundbreaking ceremony in January of 2011. While acknowledging that the old facility “served its purpose well,” Bowman was candid: “I must honestly say I was never so glad to see a wrecking ball swing in my life.”

The crumbled brick, concrete, and asphalt were crushed and used as the base for the parking lot. Despite a wet spring, work progressed quickly on the 228-unit complex that consists of five buildings and a community center. Completion was ahead of schedule, with approximately 140 workers on site daily. Of that number, 75 percent were from Central Illinois and 95 percent from the state.

“That was major to the University. They wanted to use as much local and state labor as possible,” Pande said. It was also a priority to include students in the project. Beyond inviting College of Applied Science and Technology classes to the site throughout construction, Pande had paid interns work beside him from start to finish.

“Each intern had a piece of the project to get done,” Pande said. He knows the experience will be beneficial, as his own career was launched as a result of two internships completed while at Illinois State. He has since overseen several multimillion-dollar projects, but none are as significant to Pande as Cardinal Court.

“When I was at ISU, I never dreamed I would be back in some capacity like this,” Pande said. “I care a lot about this project and put my heart and soul into it because I am proud to be an alum.”