Frequently Asked Questions

The Northern Illinois Center for Community Sustainability will be a multi-disciplinary research facility focused on food systems, water resources and environmental change. It will be the fourth “hub” in the state’s new Illinois Innovation Network, along with the University of Illinois campuses in Urbana, Chicago and Springfield.

About two-thirds of the total cost, $15 million, will come from the $500 million state capital funding approved last spring to launch the innovation network. The $7.9M from NIU includes $2.9M in-kind contribution associated with the existing land and site improvements, as well as $5M that we plan to direct towards support of our instructional and research missions over the course of the next five years. We expect that a significant fraction of the funding for equipment and operational costs will come from philanthropy, grants, fee-for service activities and private investment. Notably, this project is integrated into the plans for attracting Opportunity Zone investments.

NICCS will be built on a 20-acre parcel of NIU-owned land on the far west campus, north of the Convocation Center.

It anticipated that architectural engineering and design will take place in 2019 and 2020, with construction taking place in 2021 and 2022; parts of the building will be open for use in fall 2021.

We have submitted a detailed budget through the University of Illinois for consideration by the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), the state’s funding agency for economic development projects. Once DCEO releases the funds, we will engage in competitive bidding for an architectural design firm per state procurement regulations and identify project management.

At the same time, we are working to develop an oversight organization for the Center that encourages and facilitates multidisciplinary and multi-university research. While the resulting structure may be somewhat different than that for existing centers, it will include the participation of our shared governance systems.

We are also beginning discussions about our strategies for partnerships and communications. NICCS will be strongly involved with industry, foundations, and government agencies, and we will need a coordinated approach to these important partners.

It anticipated that architectural engineering and design will take place in 2019 and early 2020, with construction taking place in the latter part of 2020 and throughout 2021. Parts of the building will be open for use in fall 2021; full building occupancy will likely occur in 2022.

We will be working with an A&E firm on design details in coming months. The facility will be approximately 30,000 square feet and will include classrooms, laboratories, and collaboration space for work with other Illinois Innovation Network partners.

NIU has faculty who are acknowledged nationally and internationally for their research and policy expertise related to energy, water, ecosystem restoration, and environmental policy and law. Our Institute for the Study of Environment, Sustainability and Energy (ESE) fosters research, education and community engagement about the environment and sustainability. Moreover, we already offer two interdisciplinary undergraduate degrees in environmental studies, a minor in environmental studies and a teacher certification program in environmental science. NICCS is consistent with our board of trustees approved vision for research, scholarship, and artistry, preparing northern Illinois and the nation for a century of change, and its four strategic emphases: responding to the changing climate; preparing for changing demographics; leading the evolution of technology; and interpreting our changing world.

Participation in Illinois Innovation Network (IIN) and Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) will enhance NIU’s reputation as an engaged, student-centered, public research university. NICCS will provide space and equipment previously unavailable to our faculty and students working and studying in the broad range of programs related to community sustainability. It will also expose our students to experiences beyond our campus as our faculty collaborate with faculty from other network universities, and industry partnerships are established. NICCS will also promote economic development in the communities surrounding NIU, making our region a more attractive place to learn, live, and work.

NIU is always interested in collaborative opportunities to enhance academic programs, grow research, and expand innovation. In this context, we recognized the potential value of connecting our personnel, programs and facilities to those at public and private institutions across Illinois through the Discovery Partners Institute and the Illinois Innovation Network.

There are several ways external partners can become involved with NICCS. As an agency of the State of Illinois, NIU must adhere to the State Procurement Code and other State regulations. We are in the process of drafting a Request for Proposals (RFP) that will be posted on the Illinois Procurement Bulletin. To ensure all collaborations are compliant with regulations, please refer to the level of engagement listed below for guidance:

  • Design and construction RFP: As required by procurement regulations, we are unable to discuss specifics of the RFP final specifications or process.
  • Tenancy: If you are interested in tenancy at NICCS (and do not plan on responding to the RFP), we suggest developing a document outlining your requirements and specifications for our consideration and possible inclusion in the RFP.
  • Philanthropy: If you are strictly interested in donations, please contact Karinne Bredberg at 815-753-1125.

If you have questions or ideas that do not fall into any of the above categories AND you will not be responding to the RFP, please contact Karinne Bredberg at the number listed above.

Contact Us

Gerald Blazey, Ph.D.
Vice President for Research and Innovation Partnerships