UNIVERSITY PARK | Village President Vivian Covington has a dream – one in which the south suburban community she heads, which happens to have a college within its boundaries, evolves into a legitimate “college-town” community.
That's why Covington was pleased Friday to be a part of ceremonies in which Governors State University broke ground for what will be the 45-year-old college’s first-ever student housing.
“It is a dream I have had for a long time, and I can’t thank (the college) enough for their efforts to make us a college town,” Covington said, adding that she thinks the presence of students actually living on campus will make the college and her community more interesting.
“When people hear the name ‘Champaign,’ they think of the University of Illinois,” Covington said. “Someday, when they hear ‘University Park,’ maybe they’ll automatically think Governors State University.”
University officials gathered at the college for ceremonies indoors in the Hall of Governors, before moving outside for the turning of earth with shovel to kick off construction of a complex that will be called Prairie Place. The $17.23 million project is meant to create a complex with both apartment and suite-style housing for students.
In its first phase, expected to be complete for the 2014-15 academic year, there will be 77 housing units with 296 beds.
Apartment units will include kitchens, while cable and Internet services will be provided throughout the facility. Floor lounges, study rooms, a laundry room and community kitchens also will be provided.
University officials approved construction earlier this year as part of an ongoing effort to turn Governors State from a commuter college offering primarily graduate-level studies for south suburban residents to a full-fledged four-year undergraduate college along with its graduate programs.
University President Elaine Maimon said she sees having residence halls on campus as furthering the goal of the university to expand the number of people who obtain higher education.
“It will be a beautiful place for people who are the first in their families to get a quality education,” she said.
State Rep. Anthony DeLuca, D-Chicago Heights, said he sees the improvements to the college as something that benefits the south suburbs as a whole.
“Too many times, we take two steps backward for every step we take forward,” he said. “I feel like we’re taking two steps forward today.”