One of the larger changes is to make Lucinda Avenue what [design consultant Ron] Walters called “a great Main Street” for NIU. With the approved demolition of Douglas Hall, Lucinda will be extended to become a connection from one side of campus to the other. Students will be able to walk from the Convocation Center to the Music Building without winding through walkways and around buildings.Yes, the west-central campus is mostly aesthetically-challenged 1960s office-park modern, and creating an avenue along the northern border of that campus leading back toward the sports complex might serve the function of a grand driveway to the front porch. Whether Douglas Hall will in fact be gone by the start of football season remains to be seen. Stevens has been closed for renovation for all of 2013-2014 with no evidence of renovation in progress.
“It’s clear place is having an impact on our ability to recruit and our ability to retain,” Walters said. “There’s a lack of positive impressions and connections on campus.”
The university also plans to plant 2,018 trees to coincide with the graduation year of incoming freshmen, and NIU is considering planting a tree for every returning student to focus on retention.
Food Truck Fridays may also be implemented by next semester. If the event series is implemented, there will be a featured food truck placed at different spots each Friday to bring together students at areas around campus.
Residents along the street that will lead to the new grand driveway are less than enthusiastic about the added traffic.
College Avenue, which runs through the heart of the Ellwood neighborhood, has been floated as the main connection between campus and downtown DeKalb, with a tram service to help students get there. NIU officials also want to create internship and learning opportunities for students to serve those living in the Hillcrest neighborhood.The university invited suggestions from students and staff. I took some pictures of the message boards that were set up for comment. Orange dots mean "Dittos." The theme of this board appears to be to provide amenities in order that people be able to interact outside of classes or meetings.
Residents in DeKalb’s historic Ellwood and Hillcrest neighborhoods are concerned that the university came up with these ideas without consulting them first.
The Ellwood neighborhood is home to some of most unique and beautiful older homes in the city. Its winding roads, some of them paved with brick, are shaded by a canopy of mature trees. Some of the houses have a long history of use as multi-tenant or multi-family buildings; some are vacant because people in the area tend to move frequently.
But there's more than one vision of that bright future. One person's renovation is another person's gentrification, and in a world where not everyone has the life-management skills of the upper-middle-class, creating a university that looks more welcoming to the upper-middle-class can be scary. The fix, however, is not the university's to provide.
The role of the Greek-letter organizations is also subject to debate.
There are diverse conceptions of diversity. Look through all the boards, though, and you see strong sentiment for extending Metra to DeKalb. (Good luck with that. It was ten years away when I got here in 1986.)
This exhibit also provided a map of the existing campus, with opportunities for people to suggest improvements.
This excerpt of the map shows a useful suggestion, a pedestrian and bike way under the Union Pacific to the nature trail that runs along the south side of the tracks through what passes as an arboretum, and provides a route to the disc-golf course in the park.
All of the above, though, offers no presumption of resources either for construction, or for adequately staffing the classes to serve the students whose aesthetic sensibilities are no longer disrespected by the construction.