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Vertical construction backers make their case

Wednesday, May 1, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release…

At a press conference Wednesday, lawmakers and organization leaders unveiled Build Up Illinois, a coalition advocating for building projects, also known as “vertical construction”, as part of a comprehensive capital plan.

The coalition is composed of groups and associations representing P-20 education – including k-12 school districts and both private and public colleges – the Illinois hospital system and the Illinois AFL-CIO and affiliated building trades.

“Capital projects put thousands of people to work in every corner of our state while making much needed investments to our aging infrastructure,” said Michael Carrigan, President of the Illinois AFL-CIO. “The 900,000 union members across the state are willing partners in support of a capital plan that addresses needed repairs and upgrades as well as new construction. The coalition is ready to support both lawmakers and the administration in moving a comprehensive plan forward.”

The state is facing billions of dollars in repairs and new construction requests for schools, public universities, sewer and water systems, roads, bridges and state facilities. Illinois’ state facilities occupy over 8,700 buildings and 101 million square feet of floor space. They serve diverse needs, ranging from prisons to universities, mental health hospitals, and state parks.

The Capital Development Board estimates for repairs to state facilities are projected to be $7.8 billion, just under $6.7 billion for public universities and $9.4 billion for preK-12 schools.

“We know there has been a lot of discussion about the need to repair our roads and bridges,” said AJ Wilhelmi, President and CEO of the Illinois Health and Hospital Association. “But it is critical that the state invest in its healthcare infrastructure – specifically, the hospitals that are the economic anchors of our communities.”

IHA is proposing the Hospital Transformation Capital Program – to invest $500 million in state capital funds in hospitals that need to transform their aging facilities to build a coordinated, person-centered system of health and human services that will serve their communities for today and tomorrow.

“The healthcare landscape is changing dramatically from an inpatient-based system to an outpatient-focused system,” said Wilhelmi. “This means that hospital buildings constructed over the past century to provide inpatient care need to be modernized, and in some cases, repurposed to fit today’s healthcare model.”

With a rising backlog of deferred maintenance, the state’s public universities and community colleges are using money meant for their daily operations to pay for maintenance projects on buildings.

“Over the past five years, we have invested between $4 million and $6 million annually of our own resources in general revenue on construction of facilities to ensure that they remain safe and functioning,” ISU President Larry Dietz said. “Had capital funds been available, that money could have been used for scholarships, additional faculty and support staff or new technologies.”

“Illinois needs cranes on campuses and bulldozers at building sites. Construction projects signal that Illinois is open for business,” said State Senator Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat who is leading conversations in the Senate about statewide construction priorities. “Highway and bridge repairs are vitally important, but any statewide infrastructure plan has to balance those priorities with our need for new schools, modern hospitals and 21st century college facilities. There has to be a healthy mix.”

“The list of construction needs continues to grow by the day, which is why it is imperative that we get a capital bill done sooner rather than later,” said Assistant Majority Leader Jay Hoffman (D-Belleville). “But any plan must balance the need for transportation-related projects with new building construction and repair, which is what this coalition is calling for.”

State colleges and universities have asked for around $2 billion in capital funds for the next fiscal year.

“Our needs are great. It’s been ten years since the state last approved a capital bill and during that time, our colleges and universities weathered a budget stalemate,” said Dr. Sam, President of Elgin Community College. “An infusion of capital funding for buildings and repairs will certainly help in our ability to attract students to our campuses.”.

Whew, that’s a lot of needs.


  1. - wordslinger - Wednesday, May 1, 19 @ 10:40 am:

    –Whew, that’s a lot of needs.–

    “Deferred maintenance” never gets cheaper.

    But taking care of existing property is never as sexy as shiny new things.

  2. - OneMan - Wednesday, May 1, 19 @ 10:44 am:

    Umm, why should state dollars be spent on construction at private colleges and hospitals? Seems like the needs at state owned assests should be addressed first.

  3. - Not It - Wednesday, May 1, 19 @ 10:44 am:

    I didn’t see any suggestions for how to pay for it in their press release.

  4. - Pension crisis is fake news - Wednesday, May 1, 19 @ 10:45 am:

    maybe we should talk about infrastructure funding as a state long term liability like we do pensions it might get the legislature to pass an annual capital bill plan instead of a giant once ever 10 year bill

    Wow wonder what the 30 years infrastructure cost would be ?

  5. - Lucky Pierre - Wednesday, May 1, 19 @ 10:47 am:

    “Construction projects signal that Illinois is open for business,” said State Senator Andy Manar”

    I think many of your constituents who would have benefited from a $500 million dollar Private sector ethanol plant in neighboring Jacksonville would disagree Senator.

    Investing in government buildings is what many Democrats consider being “open for business”

  6. - Because I Said So.... - Wednesday, May 1, 19 @ 10:51 am:

    The coalition is public universities, not private.

  7. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, May 1, 19 @ 11:00 am:

    ===why should state dollars be spent on construction at private colleges===

    Because it’s less expensive than building new public universities?

  8. - Smalls - Wednesday, May 1, 19 @ 11:02 am:

    === The coalition is public universities, not private. ===

    Read again. “and both private and public colleges”

  9. - City Zen - Wednesday, May 1, 19 @ 11:03 am:

    Horizontal first, vertical second. Unless the plan is to hike everywhere and ford rivers.

  10. - RNUG - Wednesday, May 1, 19 @ 11:07 am:

    There isn’t enough money to go around … even if we borrow all we can bond out.

    The universities don’t need new shiny buildings as monuments to adminstation; they need to fix and maintain what they have. They need to look at closing facilities that are undetutilized, even knowing it could devistate a few communities. And they seriously need to streamline administration; there is something wrong when the goal of a lot of teachers is to become administrators. Finally, they need to be tapping their alumni for funds and, where possible, their endowment funds. Maybe if they were to do all that, they might be able to actually lower tuition.

    It would be better to put the money into K-12 … but only if any new buildings are part of school district consolidation.

    Hospitals already get lots of tax breaks and other help. If I look around in Springfield, both hospitals have been on building sprees. As far as government owned hospitals, maybe they need to be reevaluated and sold off or privatized.

    Roads … they need repairs and replacement. And, though it will cost most, can we build them to last more than 4 or 5 years?

    Lots of towns have outdated sanitary systrmd. One place I can see directing capital money is drinking water and sewer systems. Proactive / preventive spending there would probably do more for public health than more money to hospitals.

    Finally, can we try to keep the pure pork projects out of it? We don’t need to be funding every town and villages wish list of recreational facilities.

    /end of rant

  11. - Louis G. Atsaves - Wednesday, May 1, 19 @ 11:08 am:

    Private colleges? Getting public money?

    Advocating such public funding from a group I assume is also wildly anti-charter school funding?

    Crazy stuff going on in Illinois politics these days.

  12. - DownStater - Wednesday, May 1, 19 @ 11:28 am:

    Unfortunately, many of the existing public university buildings - which are State property to which the universities do not even hold title - have been so neglected it will now be significantly cheaper to replace rather than to renovate. This is what happens when you just ignore things for over a decade. Buildings don’t fix themselves. Water issues become mold issues and both of those compromise electrical, HVaC, and structural systems. Electrical systems installed in the early 1900s cannot support the technological and equipment demands of a 2020 education. Regular maintenance and updates could have significantly extended the useful lives of these buildings, but that was not the choice the State made.

  13. - FormerParatrooper - Wednesday, May 1, 19 @ 11:33 am:

    Quincy Veterans home, all you need to know why maintenance is needed.

  14. - Scamp640 - Wednesday, May 1, 19 @ 11:42 am:

    @ RNUG. I am not sure what you are “ranting” about. Your tone suggests that money should be spent on repairing existing buildings, not construct new ones. However, a significant part of the capital bill will actually do exactly what you are ranting about — target deferred maintenance so that universities can stop using operating dollars to make infrastructure repairs. When this happens, universities can divert operating funds back towards paying salaries and maybe even lowering tuition to attract more Illinois students to Illinois universities. It turns out that capital investments have direct and even positive impacts on operating budgets.

    You then suggest we should close some underutilized universities. What metrics would you use to decide which universities are not needed? Have you done an input/output economic impact analysis to know which schools should be targeted? I would love to know the results of your analysis.

  15. - OneMan - Wednesday, May 1, 19 @ 11:42 am:

    == Advocating such public funding from a group I assume is also wildly anti-charter school funding? ==

    Besides for when Rod was trying to score some points, I don’t recall state funding for charter construction. Could be wrong about that.

    Hey, lets use state money to finance Knox college building a dorm is different than lets give MAP grants to students who qualify at Knox. IMHO

    Also I am not sure state money needs to be spent to build nicer atriums at private hospitals.

  16. - SSL - Wednesday, May 1, 19 @ 11:54 am:

    This all sounds great. Just get in line behind all the critical needs of this state before you start any of these projects. Start with DCFS.

  17. - Bobby Hill - Wednesday, May 1, 19 @ 12:00 pm:

    @ - Scamp640 - Wednesday, May 1, 19 @ 11:42 am:
    “…a significant part of the capital bill will actually do exactly what you are ranting about…”

    Wait, so you have seen the list of projects? Do share.

  18. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Wednesday, May 1, 19 @ 12:05 pm:

    ==I think many of your constituents who would have benefited from a $500 million dollar Private sector ethanol plant in neighboring Jacksonville would disagree Senator.==

    They didn’t build it because tariffs destroyed their ability to sell their product. Remember? Yesterday?

  19. - Lucky Pierre - Wednesday, May 1, 19 @ 12:06 pm:

    “Unfortunately, many of the existing public university buildings - which are State property to which the universities do not even hold title - have been so neglected it will now be significantly cheaper to replace rather than to renovate.”

    I don’t think you have been UIUC or ISU recently Downstater

    The demise of Illinois higher education construction has been greatly exaggerated as anyone who has been in Champaign or Bloomington Normal will attest

    record enrollment at ISU

  20. - Demoralized - Wednesday, May 1, 19 @ 12:11 pm:

    ==The demise of Illinois higher education construction has been greatly exaggerated==

    There is a list of deferred maintenance at higher ed institutions a mile long.

    I think you better go back and do a bit more research.

  21. - Scamp640 - Wednesday, May 1, 19 @ 12:25 pm:

    @ Bobby Hill. I am not sure if you know this, but each year, every public university in the state of Illinois compiles a list of deferred maintenance projects and then ranks their priority in case money becomes available. So, I am not going to do all of the research for you. You probably know how to use the Googles. However, I will get you started. I refer you to the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) for the current budget year (FY2019), which has a listing of prioritized capital investments that would be great should money become available. Specifically, start on page 41 of this document and then read through the following 20 or so pages. Here you will see break downs by university. Examples include HVAC systems repair, leaking roofs, fire alarm upgrades, plumbing reconstruction, ADA compliance projects, and all sort of other mundane, but important aspects of university infrastructure.

    This is a pretty good start. How else can I help?

  22. - Scamp640 - Wednesday, May 1, 19 @ 12:32 pm:

    @ Bobby Hill. Here is the FY2020 Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) proposed budget. It includes a list of prioritized capital projects for each public university in the state. The list starts on page 61. I imagine that this will be an excellent starting point to identify viable projects:

  23. - Scamp640 - Wednesday, May 1, 19 @ 12:38 pm:

    @ Bobby Hill. The specific report on the IBHE website is: Fiscal Year 2020 Higher Education Budget Recommendations: Operations, Grants, and Capital Improvements. As noted in my previous post, the capital improvements part of the report starts on page 61. Table 15 on page 67 presents some of the nitty-gritty details of what deferred maintenance projects universities have prioritized, such as HVAC updates, plumbing repairs, leaking roofs, road construction, ADA compliance, and so forth.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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