Columbia College Chicago Breaks Ground on New Student Center

Investment in students, innovative design to be a unifying hub for the campus and boost to Chicago’s creative economy

CHICAGO – November 13, 2017–Today, Columbia College Chicago broke ground on an innovative new student center as distinctive as its students. A bold affirmation of Columbia’s strategic vision, the building will be a welcoming space for students to create and collaborate on new ideas, and is the first student center in the college’s 127-year history. 

“The new Student Center is built around the ideas and inspired work of our students,” said Dr. Kwang-Wu Kim, president and CEO of Columbia College Chicago. “They continue to innovate precisely because they actively seek out ways to collaborate across a range of creative disciplines and genres. The new space will foster these innovations and bring together a highly diverse community of makers and thinkers engaged with our exciting, culturally influential city.” 

Dr. Kim welcomed Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, as well as local community organizations and Columbia faculty, staff and students to break ground on the corner of Eighth Street and Wabash Avenue, the site of the new facility, and commence a construction process that will be completed in early 2019.

“This new student center is a commitment to Columbia students, and an investment in the cultural and creative youth in Chicago,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “I am thrilled that Columbia is building a brand-new 21st century hub for its students to help them prepare for success in our 21st century world.”

Columbia partnered with Chicago architectural and design firm Gensler Chicago, which designed and programmed an innovative five-story, 114,000 square-foot hub that strategically repositions campus properties around a centralized space, and builds upon the college’s special connection with the South Loop and the city.

“The South Loop neighborhood continues to thrive and celebrate the diversity of its residents, which includes its talented and creative student population,” said Alderman Sophia King, representative of the 4th ward where the student center will be located. “I welcome Columbia’s new student center, not only because it will serve to strengthen the bond between the students at school, it will serve as a creative hub for the entire community.”

The new building will feature integrated spaces for both structured and informal interaction and learning— from analog and digital maker labs to an 800-person event space.

“The ongoing partnership between Columbia and Gensler continues to evolve as do the needs of students on an urban campus,” said Dave Broz, principal and education practice area leader for Gensler Chicago. “This building creates visual awareness and encourages students to re-evaluate their perspectives as part of a larger role in the urban fabric of the great city of Chicago. And the architecture and design, especially the patchwork of translucent glass, expresses student activity and creative work outward to engage the street and surrounding community. A true testament to what we heard in student feedback through the design process.”

Currently, Columbia’s urban campus serves nearly 7,500 students and employs more than 2,000 full-time and part-time faculty and staff contributing to the economy and vitality of the South Loop and the city. More than 300 Columbia students are from the City Colleges of Chicago and 572 are graduates of Chicago Public Schools. Columbia offers Star Scholars—high-achieving Chicago Public Schools (CPS) graduates who earn the opportunity to attend City Colleges for free— transfer and scholarship support to continue their education.

About Columbia College Chicago

Columbia College Chicago is a private, non-profit urban institution offering a distinctive curriculum that blends creative arts, media, liberal arts, and business for nearly 7,500 students in more than 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Dedicated to academic excellence and long-term career success, Columbia College Chicago creates a dynamic, challenging, and collaborative space for students who experience the world through a creative lens. For more information, visit

About Gensler Chicago

Established 20 years ago, Gensler Chicago has over 300 people designing impactful spaces in almost every industry to make a lasting and positive impact in neighborhoods all over the City of Chicago. Gensler is a global architecture, design and planning firm with 45 locations and more than 5,000 professionals networked across Asia, Europe, Australia, the Middle East and the Americas. Founded in 1965, the firm serves more than 3,500 active clients in virtually every industry.




Sofia Valdivia
Resolute Consulting
312.768.4782 (o)

Cara Birch
Columbia College Chicago
312.369.8695 (o)