Moline WIU expansion blends environment with education

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The second phase of Western Illinois University is taking shape along the Moline riverfront.

This $42 million expansion should be ready for students in about a year. Discussions over a third phase aren't far behind.

It's quite a sight along Moline's River Drive these days. There's work on the ground and projects high in the sky.

"We're trying really hard to provide a variety of spaces," said Bill Brewer, WIU's facilities director.

Western Illinois University is adding three buildings to its riverfront campus. It's the next step for the Quad Cities' first public four-year university.

"We want to serve the community in terms of providing higher education in an affordable way," Brewer said.

Brewer has seen all of it go from concept to reality. It should be a remarkable opportunity for students.

The ribbon-cutting in January 2012 for the first building represented a new era in higher education. The celebration was made even brighter with plans for more buildings.

All of this construction will help to grow the WIU campus, but it's also designed to benefit the entire community.

Plans reveal a campus designed to be safe, usable and friendly. It's an environment that supports education.

"We have a natural riverfront ecology now in front of the building for people to look at and see," Brewer said.

And the project is boosting the local economy by creating jobs.

"At the greatest point out here, I would anticipate we would have somewhere in the neighborhood of 200-250 local employees and union tradesmen working out here," said Rob Davis, the project manager for Bush Construction.

For WIU, it's all about seizing the moment.

"Take opportunities when you can get them," Brewer concluded.

For the campus, it doesn't matter if those opportunities are high above or close to the ground.