By TONIA HILL
Last week, the University of Chicago presented its plans for a new on-campus residence hall and dining commons to the community of Woodlawn during Ald. Willie Cochran’s (20th) ward meeting, last Wednesday.
At the meeting community members were given an opportunity to weigh in on those plans.
Community members wanted to ensure that the University and the construction team for the project had a plan in place to ensure that men and women in the community are paired with employment opportunities during the project and once it is complete.
There were also concerns about the construction process and how it would impact traffic and noise in the area.
Wendy Walker Williams, executive director, community partnerships with U. of C.’s Office of Civic Engagement said the project would create 200 construction jobs and 15 permanent jobs.
“Is your infrastructure sufficient to guarantee that we get African American [men and women] working,” asked Rev. Dr. Leon Finney, Pastor of the Metropolitan Apostolic Community Church, 4610 S. Prairie Ave.
“We look at the seven zip codes that surround the properties there is not a percentage set,” said Brad Carter, senior project manager at Turner Construction Company, referring to a question on whether or not there is a set percentage for employing people in the surrounding community.
Carter added that during the construction process for Saieh Hall, 1160 E 58th St. About 39 of the 100 people that worked on remodeling the building were from Woodlawn.
Turner Construction Company a New York-based firm will construct the Woodlawn Residential Commons that will be located between Woodlawn and University avenues, just north of 61st Street.
Construction is expected to begin this summer. It is slated to open in the 2020-2021 school year.
The company was also recently selected to serve as construction manager for the Obama Presidential Center.
Turner according to the university’s announcement has committed to its goals for diversity and local hiring on capital construction projects.
“This includes increasing participation of certified, minority-owned contracting firms from 25 percent to 35 percent, women-owned firms from 5 percent to 6 percent, and raising the proportion of onsite construction workers who live in the city of Chicago from 30 percent to 40 percent,” said U. of C. in a written statement.
The firm of Elkus Manfredi Architects will design the Woodlawn Residential Commons.
The new dormitory will house well over 1,000 undergraduate students and resident staff and will include lounges, study rooms, and outdoor spaces.
The tallest part of the buildings for the residence hall and dining commons will be 170 feet.
In total, the facility will have 11 houses, which are residential communities that “foster close academic and social networks throughout a student’s time at the College,” said U. of C. in a written release.
A private developer team consisting of Capstone Development Partners and Harrison Street Real Estate Capital will develop, provide the funds and oversee the design and construction of the project. Following construction, the group will be responsible for the upkeep of the new residential and dining commons.
Once the facility is open, it will be managed as other residence and dining halls on U. of C.’s campus with oversight from the university, Housing and Residence Life staff, and College resident deans.
Similar to U. of C. Campus North Residential Commons that opened in 2016, the Woodlawn residence will offer single and double rooms, private apartments with kitchens and bathrooms and common areas. The space will also accommodate resident deans and faculty members.
“The new Woodlawn Residential Commons continues the University of Chicago’s commitment to further the educational and personal success of our students by developing supportive and intellectually stimulating residential communities,” said John W. Boyer, dean of the College in a written statement. “Students come to the University of Chicago for a distinct style of intellectual engagement and for a particular culture of learning, but that experience should not be confined to time in our classrooms. With the Commons, we will offer more high-quality resources for community living as well as an environment that also is designed to foster personal and intellectual development.”
Bon Appétit Management Company, which runs all residential dining commons at U. of C. will hire permanent and temporary staff for the new dining commons. “Thirty-five percent of the work will be allotted to women and minority-owned entities, and 50 percent of employees will come from local South Side communities,” said U. of C. in a written release.
“This not something that is new to us,” Cochran said. “We are going to demand certain standards be met.”
Other construction projects on the horizon for the university include a 180-room hotel, the David Rubenstein Forum, and the Keller Center.
The 180-room hotel that was proposed in May will include meeting rooms, a fitness center, and a full-service restaurant. The full-service hotel will be developed and owned by Hospitality 3 LLC. Hospitality 3 LLC is a New York-based firm and has similar projects in New Haven, Conn., and Philadelphia.
The Rubenstein Forum will be an academic conference center, and the building will host academic conferences, workshops, lectures, meeting, ceremonies and more. It will be built at 60th Street and Woodlawn Avenue.
The Keller Center will house the U. of C. ‘s Harris School of Public Policy. The project consists of a major renovation and redesign of an existing building at 1307 E. 60th St., construction began last April, and it is expected to be complete by fall 2018.