February 25, 2007

Another (small) piece of the WIU riverfront project falls into place

The longest journey begins with a single step they say, and in that light, the WIU riverfront campus idea is at least not moving backwards.

The Illinois Board of Higher Education recommended last Friday that the state spend $14.2 million dollars on the project as part of the 2007-08 capitol budget for WIU. In addition to that recommendation for WIU, they also recommended spending over twice that amount, $29.1 million, on a performance arts center in Macomb.

This does not assure the funding, but the governor and staff look to the recommendations as a guide to the board's priorities. In other words, it's exactly what it appears to be, simply recommendations from one group.

Though Gov.Blagojevich has promised funding for the project at a campaign stop in the Quad Cities last fall, a spokesman for the governor contacted by the Dispatch/Argus couldn't say whether the money will be in the governor's budget, which is to be released March 7th.

A timeline of the WIU situation:

- 1960 WIU starts classes in various locations in the Quad Cities

- 1994 WIU buys and renovates the old IBM building in Moline for $4 million

- 20 acre riverfront campus proposed, projected cost is $71 million dollars, including $15 million to remodel the former Deere Tech Center on River Drive. The project is planned to include 190,000 square feet of building space.

- WIU receives $200,000 from the state to complete preliminary design studies for the renovation of the Tech Center building alone.

- WIU receives $250,000 from a Housing and Urban Development bill passed by the U.S. Congress for the project.

- In September, Gov. Blagojevich announces a pledge of $14 million to refurbish the Tech Center and gives the school another $2.4 million dollars for more planning.

If the project is ever completed, backers say it will provide 200 jobs and have a $48 million economic impact to the area.

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