Chicago State University plans to announce later this fall location for its new West Side campus.

The South Side university is considering five locations — four vacant sites and one with an existing structure. The $40 million campus is expected to open in August 2016, says Bruce Washington, project manager for Chicago State. The money was part of a large, multimillion dollar public works initiative for the state signed by Gov. Pat Quinn.

The university is looking to build on six-to-eight acres of land covering 100,000 square feet. The target area to build is bounded by Austin Boulevard and Western Avenue going east-west and North Avenue to Roosevelt Road going north-south.

Washington says an announcement on a final location will come in the next two to three months. Twenty-three West Side sites were initially considered before narrowing down to the current five, Washington says.

Austin, he adds, is among the potential site locations.

The funding was approved in 2009, strongly supported by Austin state Sen. Kimberly Lightford (4th) and former Lawndale state Sen. Rickey Hendon (5th). The campus will offer 10 bachelor and two master degree programs for about 950 students, Washington says.

The West Side, he adds, was particularly chosen because of the prospective student population and economic benefits the campus could spur.

“With the 10 bachelor degrees and two master degrees we’ll be offering, once those students graduate, we want them to be able to find jobs in that particular curriculum. That’s one of the criteria in selecting a site, that this campus can be a stimulus to impact economic development,” Washington says, adding that community residents will also have access to some campus facilities.

Tuition at the new campus, he says, would likely mirror that of the main campus. On-campus tuition this fall for freshmen and transfer undergrads that live in Illinois is $294-per credit hour. Fees start at $423 and increases depending on the course load. The fees are the same for on-campus Illinois grad students but tuition is a dollar more per credit hour.

Non-Illinois residents pay slightly more in tuition and fees. But tuition has steadily increased in recent years, going from $249-per credit hour in 2008 to the current amount. But the tuition, Washington says, would still be lower compared to other city universities.

Founded as a teacher training school in the 1860s, Chicago State University held classes on the West Side sporadically throughout its history until the main campus was built in the 1970s.

Malcolm X College, 1900 W. Van Buren, has hosted Chicago State courses. MXC, which is getting a new main campus built on part of its Jackson Street parking lot, was not considered for the West Side campus, Washington says. Considered but eventually ruled out was the Brach’s site, 401 N. Cicero, in Austin.

“It was too large for what we were looking for, and it would require a tremendous amount of demolition,” Washington says.

Chicago State’s West Side expansion also has support among local elected officials.

“We think it’s critical in bringing those types of programs into the community, not only as a four-year institution but as a HBCU (Historically Black College and University),” says Ald. Jason Ervin, whose 28th Ward is a potential location. “On the West Side, that would have a huge impact.”

The sites currently under consideration have the criteria the university is looking for, Washington says, including access to public transportation and the expressway. The sites also have direct access to surrounding high schools, which Chicago State hopes will be feeders into the new campus, Washington says.

Prior to the campus’s opening, the university will open three West Side locations next January for 75 students per location. Washington says those students will move to the new campus once it’s built.

Ervin: Manufacturer, not warehouse for Brach’s site

28th Ward Ald. Jason Ervin says he’d prefer to see the Brach’s property in Austin at 401 N. Cicero. converted to a manufacturing site or an educational/learning facility.

Demolition of the former Brach’s candy factory that started last November has continued through the summer. One large factory building has been torn down and, so far, only skeletal-remains of a second factory building exist. Several smaller buildings on the site will also be demolished.

The Brach’s site was acquired by developer ML Realty Partners in 2008, with the city of Chicago providing $10.6 million in tax increment financing for the deal. The Itasca-based firm plans to covert the 32-acre site into a multi-use, industrial complex and distribution center. Ervin noted that there’s plenty of unused land north along Cicero that could house such a facility. He’d also prefer either a manufacture or educational facility for the site.

“The point of being warehouse and distribution may pose some challenges,” he says. “I’m really concerned, and I’ve expressed this to the owners of the property, that maybe warehouse and distribution may not be what’s needed in that area. It’s a site that’s on everyone’s radar. So now that you can really see that there’s some movement on the property, I hope that within the next 12 to 18 months that we can find a serious suitor for the property that can then build it out.

“The goal is for it to be a job-creator, be it in manufacturing or in service, whatever distinction that we’re looking at,” Ervin added, also noting that Chicago State University was eyeing the site for its new West Side campus.

The university considered the site but opted against building there, instead looking for a smaller footprint for the campus. Ervin says he’d support a high school or college built on the site. 

“That’s been the only exception that has existed to outright job creation on that site,” Ervin says. 


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