2020 Renovation & Construction Showcase: Holmes Student Center, Northern Illinois University

Holmes Student Center 

Northern Illinois University | DeKalb, Illinois 

Holmes Student Center, courtesy of Northern Illinois UniversityRenovation

Submitted by: Joe Lifshitz, Assistant Director
Campus type: Four-year, public
Full-time enrollment: 16,609
Project broke ground: October 2018
Project completed: October 2019
Total area: 320,000 sq. ft.
Floors: 16
Project cost: $20.9 million
Funding source: Institution
Architects: Dewberry – Fairfax, Virginia, and Elmhurst, Illinois; Workshop Architects – Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Facilities Renovated 

Food service (Huskie Den, Qdoba, Starbucks, Depot Convenience Store): 12,650 sq. ft.
Student programming and lounges: 21,000 sq. ft.
Exterior commons, main entry and green roof: 18,500 sq. ft.
Meeting and conference space: 14,480 sq. ft.
Welcome desk and hotel check-in: 1,690 sq. ft.
Huskie Den game room: 9,540 sq. ft.
Book and gear store: 16,050 sq. ft. 

Holmes Student Center, courtesy of Northern Illinois UniversityYou could say HSC is back. The Holmes Student Center never really left, but while approaching 60 years old and with one major renovation nearly as far back (1968), staff and students knew something was needed to revive the facility as the heart and soul of the campus. It's still unmistakable as the foundation for a 16-story limestone covered building that houses a 76-room hotel but a range of focus groups, surveys, interviews, external campus visits, and many meetings by many committees came to one consuming conclusion: Holmes Student Center needed to be student-centric once again. 

Enter the upscale pub grub location, Huskie Den, which offers chef Kevin Shirley’s unique burgers like the peanut butter, bacon, and jelly-topped “Don’t Be Jelly,” and the Chicago-style hotdog inspired “Sweet Home Chicago,” with giardiniera peppers and Italian beef. Craft beers, wine, and plenty of high-definition video brings the ambience together for students, faculty, and campus guests alike. 

A new entrance to the south lets visitors stroll directly into the central campus commons, and an open-air “Main Street” concept provides easy access to food, lounges, entertainment, and other amenities. New lighting, upgraded multimedia, new digital signage, and smart lighting technology add a sense of fresh modernity to the space. 

Holmes Student Center, courtesy of Northern Illinois UniversityHeating, cooling, and ventilation saw an upgrade as well, all of which improved energy efficiency, and the building’s fire alarm and sprinkler system infrastructure was upgraded. 

“It has become the place to go and hang out on campus,” said Assistant Director Joe Lifshitz. “From Day 1 we’ve had hundreds of students in the space from open to close, and our new people counter system is telling us we’re seeing about 5,000 entries per weekday. And it is, of course, one of the most commonly talked about things on campus.” 
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