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UIS, SIU Go Public With Plans For Downtown Springfield

Bruce Sommer formally announces collaboration for downtown Springfield
Mike Smith
NPR Illinois
UIS's Bruce Sommer and SIU's John Charles at DSI's Annual Dinner Thursday evening.

Two universities have formally announced a collaboration intended to bring a new higher education presence to downtown Springfield.

Officials from the University of Illinois Springfield and Southern Illinois University said they’re working together to create an innovation space in proximity to the Capitol Building.

UIS’s Bruce Sommer presented the plan at a dinner sponsored by the civic group Downtown Springfield Inc. He said the project would begin with a single building, but the idea is to create an entire district devoted to education, commercialization of technology, and business incubation.

“The more people we have engaged, like [the] SIU system, the greater the opportunity, I think, for its impact," he said.

Sommer also said the programs within the district would lure businesses downtown, to partner with the universities.

The location and scope of the innovation hub are still works in progress, and while funding for innovation hubs around the state totals $1 billion, what portion of that needs to be earmarked for Springfield is also undetermined.

One plan, from the Springfield-Sangamon Growth Alliance, would encompass four city blocks adjacent to the Statehouse.

But several preservation groups are arguing against evicting tenants and tearing down existing buildings, and suggesting plans consider some of downtown Springfield’s empty lots.

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