Bradley graduates won’t be the only ones leaving the Hilltop in May, as Baker Hall will be demolished following graduation to make way for construction of the long-planned Business and Engineering Complex, which was previously referred to as the Convergence Center.
The Board of Trustees voted Feb. 3 to move forward with the construction of the $100 million complex. The building will encompass 270,000 square feet of offices, classrooms, computer labs and specialized labs, and will hold its first classes in fall 2019.
Throughout construction of the building, engineering students will remain in Jobst Hall. But according to Gary Anna, senior vice president for Business Affairs, some business students may not attend class on Bradley’s campus, instead relocating to a Campustown location previously used during the construction of Westlake Hall from 2010 to 2012.
“There are classrooms in the Campustown space – four of them – that will serve for a variety of reasons for some adjacency for activities there,” Anna said. “And it’s likely that some of the graduate [business] programs will entertain use of space … on Main Street in the Innovation Center.”
Anna said Caterpillar Inc. has also used the Campustown location for business operations in the past, and the space is highly flexible to Bradley’s needs.
“[Caterpillar] had over one hundred people working in the space,” Anna said. “It allows for some nice configurations of work pods and spaces and a series of conference rooms for private meetings and these four modules for class spaces … [Caterpillar] had a very good experience there.”
Most business students will attend class on Bradley’s campus, but Anna also said class schedules may be modified for students of all majors.
“The entire campus will participate in some of the schedule adjustment,” Anna said. “It’s clear from the conversations that I’ve been involved with on a secondary basis that some class schedules will be elongated during the day. There will be classes on Fridays in some cases where there have not been.”
Sophomore marketing major Brandon Vonachen said he didn’t know Baker Hall would be torn down during his time at Bradley when he was deciding where to go to college.
“I had no idea they would be tearing down Baker and that my classes would be scattered,” Vonachen, who currently attends the majority of his classes in Baker Hall, said. “It will be an adjustment, but I’m not really upset about it because in the end it will be better for Bradley.”
Updates needed now
Anna said there are a variety of reasons that contributed to the decision to begin the construction of the complex this year, including the ages of Baker Hall and Jobst Hall, the relative importance of the engineering and business programs and the high quality of skilled labor currently available in the Peoria area.
“The buildings we’re currently operating are tired,” Anna said. “[The engineering and business] programs, as are all of our programs, but these programs are very important. And for engineering in particular and for aspects of business, they need upgraded space. It’s just that simple.”
According to Anna, the Board of Trustees also voted to move forward with the project because of how close the university is to achieving its financing target of $100 million.
“We’re very close; close enough that there is line of sight,” Anna said. “We still have to bid the project [and] there’s still some construction drawings being finalized. But the Board of Trustees was satisfied with the information that they’ve had before them, and they’ve seen updates regularly over the last five years, [so] they felt comfortable to pull the trigger and move ahead.”
Included in the financing is a combination of donations and outside funding. According to Anna, tuition paid by students will not be appropriated toward the construction of the building.
“There’s a mixture of gifts and private external support,” Anna said. “For a project like this, it’s not unusual for there to be some financing in addition to outright gifts … and there’s always a question of, ‘Is this going to fall on the backs of the students that are here now?’ The answer to that is, ‘No.’ That’s why these other financing sources become important.”
Commitment to community
According to University Spokesperson Renee Charles, another key component of the decision to begin the project in May is the commitment to the Peoria community, especially in light of Caterpillar’s decision to relocate its headquarters from Peoria to Chicago.
“When looking at the community, with the recent announcement of Caterpillar leaving, this announcement that we have about this building is an economic boost to the region,” Charles said. “Putting people to work building, to see something like this taking place is a shot in the arm for the community in general.”
Charles also said the construction of the building will provide benefits to the neighboring communities not only because of its design, but also because of some of the services the complex will offer.
“Just the look and feel and aesthetics of [the building] will really brighten up that whole [Main Street] corridor,” Charles said. “The programs that will be taking place in there [will be] not only for students, but will be welcoming to the community, as well. It kind of adds another doorway to Bradley for our entire community.”
Anna said one of these services will be a maker’s lab, which will allow local members of the community to become more engaged in engineering topics.
“[The maker’s lab] is very community-oriented,” Anna said. “For students attending local schools to be able to come in on the weekends … and learn a little bit more about engineering and processes related to it and tinker, if you will, a little bit with what an engineer does.”
Maintaining the vision
Bradley ranked sixth in the nation in student engagement last year, and according to Anna, the collaboration between engineering and business students is important toward accomplishing that goal of experiential learning.
“Most people who have been out in the field will tell you to be an effective businessperson working with engineers, you need to understand their process; you need to better understand how they problem solve,” Anna said. “The same is true for engineers. In some cases, the best engineer in the world isn’t going to find a good application if they don’t understand the business influence on their solutions, [such as] taking their ideas to market and working with support people who engage their engineering prowess.”
A physical model of the complex can be viewed in the Shaheen Hall of Pride in Hayden-Clark Alumni Hall.