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New South Loop Campus For U. of I. Pitched By Gov. Rauner, Reports Say

By David Matthews | October 18, 2017 1:46pm | Updated on October 18, 2017 3:22pm
 A conceptual rendering of the U of I-led Discovery Partners Institute in the South Loop.
A conceptual rendering of the U of I-led Discovery Partners Institute in the South Loop.
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SOUTH LOOP — Gov. Bruce Rauner reportedly has a big plan for the South Loop: a new campus for the University of Illinois.

Rauner is throwing his support behind the University of Illinois-led Discovery Partners Institute, a new public-private research facility that would be built on part of the 62-acre development site at Clark and Roosevelt now owned by Chicago developer Related Midwest, according to reports. 

Spokespersons for Rauner and the university declined comment, saying more details will be shared during a formal announcement Thursday morning. 

But reports Wednesday from Crain's and the Tribune say the facility aims to bring together students, faculty and private companies to work on a variety of disciplines ranging from data processing to agriculture. 

The campus would bolster U of I's presence in Chicago and deliver a political win for Rauner, who's up for re-election next year. 

Yet two big questions remain: how much the campus would cost, and who's paying for it.

Crain's quoted sources saying Rauner has lined up $200 million in private donations to initially fund the campus. The Tribune quoted Rauner saying he could deliver proceeds from his proposed sale of the Loop's James R. Thompson Center, a longtime Rauner priority that's been met with political opposition from state lawmakers and Mayor Rahm Emanuel. 

Related Midwest reportedly agreed to donate a portion of its massive development site, which it still eyes for a new neighborhood in Downtown Chicago. A Related Midwest spokeswoman said the campus would be built at the southern end of the site closer to 18th Street and the Chicago River.

Officials have actually considered the same site before for a university campus.

In the 1950s, while operating at Navy Pier, the University of Illinois sought to build its first dedicated Chicago campus on what is now Related's site, but the land was owned by railroad companies who were asking for more than former mayor Richard J. Daley was willing to pay.

So Daley turned his attention to the area around Harrison and Halsted streets to open what is now the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1965, displacing thousands of predominantly working class Greek and Italian families in the process.

The new U of I campus would reportedly be built on part of this land at Clark and Roosevelt, which would be donated by developer Related Midwest. [DNAinfo/David Matthews]


U of I plans satellite campus in the South Loop (Crain's)

Univ. of Illinois plans public-private Chicago innovation center in the South Loop (Tribune)