A preliminary design for the new Bone Student Center north plaza, and how it looks today.
Illinois State’s “living room” is about to get an extreme makeover.
The University is moving ahead with plans for a $32.9 million renovation of the Bone Student Center, a project that will create an inviting “front door” for visitors and add new dining and hangout spaces for students. It will be the first major upgrade for the 42-year-old campus hub, which has 5,000 daily visitors and hosts more than 4,500 events each year.
“The term we’ve been using is transformational,” said Michelle Paul, director of the Bone Student Center and Braden Auditorium.
Illinois State’s Board of Trustees recently approved plans to begin construction on the first phase of the project, which will be paid for primarily with existing reserve funds.
Highlights of the much-needed revitalization project include:
- New welcome center that will be the Bone’s front door, open access to Milner Plaza, and feature an Office of Admissions presentation room that overlooks the Quad.
- Additional dining venues, including more “fast casual” options.
- Knocking out walls to create more “open concept” areas with natural light.
- Relocated and larger Barnes & Noble-Illinois State University Bookstore.
- New foyer/reception area outside the Brown Ballroom, which will now be able to host up to three separate smaller events.
The Bone is often called Illinois State’s “living room,” but its old-school, concrete-heavy design can appear fort-like, said Paul. (The architectural style of the current building is literally called “brutalist.”)
By adding more natural light and “open concept” seating areas, project leaders hope to create a Bone that excites and attracts the next generation of Redbirds.
“We hope that by blowing out the walls and bringing in the windows and light, people will feel like it’s open and easier to make their way through the building,” said Paul.
Working with Dewberry Architects and Workshop Architects, ISU’s project leaders hope to create spaces that are both “sticky” and “thick,” meaning they’ll attract and hold students while also serving many different purposes. The Bone’s outdoor courtyard, for example, is today hard to find. In the new Bone, it will have its own staircase down from Milner Plaza and a coffee shop just inside.
“What we’re trying to do here is make it more student-friendly, more outgoing and welcoming to bring students in,” said David Gill, director of Facilities Planning and Construction Management at Illinois State. “We want to make it more welcoming and more fun to be in.”
It can also be a powerful recruiting tool. The welcome center’s new presentation room, on the third floor, will offer an impressive view of Illinois State’s Quad for prospective students and their families.
“When people get on our campus and see the Quad, it’s a huge selling point,” Paul said.
The new Bone will also improve functionality. Its catering kitchen will be moved downstairs, where most catered events take place, and a loading dock will make it easier for drivers to come and go.
Campus Dining Services and the Dean of Students Office will be moved into new office space on the second floor, where the Barnes & Noble Bookstore is currently located. The bookstore will be moving downstairs in a larger space, with its own outside entrance—another first.
Illinois State has been planning Bone renovations off and on literally for decades, but this is the first time the project has been so close to construction.
The construction timeline is hard to pin down, in part because the new dining venues haven’t been decided and because ISU staff wants to minimize disruption to students and other visitors. But if all goes as planned, groundbreaking could take place in winter 2016, Paul said. It will take years to complete.
“We’re all teed up and ready to go,” said Gill.
A preliminary design for the new Brown Ballroom pre-function area, and how it looks today.
A preliminary design for the new south entry and courtyard, and how it looks today.
Ryan Denham can be reached at rmdenha@IllinoisState.edu.