7 In Your Neighborhood: A vertical university campus

May 5, 2012 (CHICAGO)

In the heart of the loop is a new vertical campus at Roosevelt University. It officially opened its doors to the public Saturday.

The architecture stands out with what looks like blue waves reflecting the lake it overlooks. But it might pale in comparison to the views incoming students will enjoy outside their dorm room windows. School leaders say they worked to take advantage of the university's unique downtown location.

"If you think about it in terms of what you would see on campuses in more suburban or rural areas, instead of going horizontally, we go vertically," said university President Chuck Middleton. "So, it's a series of buildings stacked on top of one another."

At 469-feet-tall, the 32-story building is said to be the second tallest university facility in the country and the sixth tallest in the world. In addition to student residences on the top floors, the building houses classrooms, laboratories and a state-of-the-art fitness center.

The modern building is also connected in several places to the Auditorium Theatre where the Joffrey Ballet performs. Developers worked to marry the old with the new.

"Here we have one of the most historic buildings and now one of the most modern in higher education," said Paul Matthews, assistant vice president for campus planning and operations. "They're interconnected, like the Auditorium Theatre now has a rehearsal studio which it never had before. It now has an elevator that it never had before in 128 years of its existence."

While students entering in August are likely to be impressed by their new campus, administrators say they hope public programs will encourage everyone to use the facility.

"We want the community to enjoy this space," Matthews said. "It's right in downtown Chicago and it's for the community also."

Said Middleton, "We think it's representative of who we are as a university, forward-looking, forward-thinking and inclusive."

Among notable Roosevelt University alumni are the late Mayor Harold Washington and former presidents of both McDonalds and Burger King.

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