by Joe King
In a case of later definitely being better than never, NIU held an opening celebration for the Northern View Community earlier this month.
The actual opening occurred last August, but its significance was washed away, quite literally. Residents, who began arriving Aug. 22, had to be evacuated the next day when massive storms flooded the area, leaving the buildings briefly surrounded by water. The subsequent clean-up and completion of last-minute work prompted the rescheduling of any celebration.
Conditions were much better Thursday, June 5, when university dignitaries formally dedicated the first new buildings for student housing at NIU since 1968.
Designed specifically with families and non-traditional students in mind, Northern View is comprised mostly of two- and three-bedroom apartments suitable for families. The mix of residents during the first year consisted primarily of families, law students, international students and graduate students for whom residence halls were not a viable option.
“This beautiful facility, with its fabulous grounds, allows us to welcome and embrace all of our students,” said NIU President John Peters. “It creates a place where those returning to college after being in the workplace can pursue their education without having to sacrifice living with their families. It has been a tremendous addition to the university.”
Northern View, which replaced the former University Apartments, was designed with particular attention to the needs of the non-traditional student populations that it serves. The complex includes a community center with a computer lab for studying, a play room and playground for children and a recreation area for adults.
“Balancing classes with the demands of raising a family is challenging,” said Barbara Giorgi-Vella, a member of the NIU Board of Trustees. “By providing such a wonderful facility to help meet those needs, we are setting our students up to succeed. Northern View allows students to keep their families close by and to draw upon them for support, and that can be very important.”
The $20 million project was built through a public-private partnership with Collegiate Development Services, a not-for-profit, Texas-based organization that offers turn-key real estate development services to colleges and universities across the country, specializing in residence halls. The complex is owned by Collegiate Development Services but managed by NIU Housing and Dining. It was designed by BLDD Architects.
“The success of this project was a true team effort, and we have been very excited about and pleased with our partnership with Collegiate Development Services,” said NIU Executive Vice President Eddie Williams, who also praised the efforts of the Division of Student Affairs that helped ensure a successful launch for the complex.
Kelly Wesener, executive director of Housing and Dining, echoed Williams’ praise of her staff. Despite its waterlogged start, she said, Northern View has been a tremendous addition to student housing.
“We have needed a facility like Northern View for many years,” Wesener said. “It has allowed us to upgrade our services to some important segments of our student population, not just improving their housing options, but also helping to create a community and a support network for them. Getting a new facility online is always a little bit challenging, but it has clearly been a success.”