Design unveiled for Discovery Partners Institute at The 78

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Chicago Construction News staff writer

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The University of Illinois’ Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) has unveiled the design for the new headquarters in The 78, a new innovation district planned along the Chicago River with CVS Health as an anchor employer.

The project is expected to break ground in 2024, becoming the first building to begin construction in The 78 Innovation District. The facility will mark the beginning of a transformation that will connect the South Loop and Chinatown, filling a 62-acre void that has long separated them.

The eight-story building — a layered dome of glass and steel— is designed to create strong connections to the vibrant communities on all sides of the building, the adjacent riverfront, and the future phases of the larger Innovation District at The 78.

The base will have a café, auditorium, and multipurpose exhibition space with classrooms.

Architecture firms OMA, under the direction of partner Shohei Shigematsu, and Jacobs are leading the design. The Illinois Capital Development Board oversees design and construction. Related Midwest, developer of The 78, donated land and oversee the buildout of the 62-acre property.

“Our architects describe our central atrium as ‘an active collision zone,’ and I love that,” said DPI Executive Director Bill Jackson. “We’re here to foster new relationships and bring more women and people of color into the tech industry. We can’t wait to have a building that will help us accelerate our growth and make new connections.”

Over the next five years, the Chicago/Skills apprenticeship program will provide up to 2,500 individuals with tuition-free technology training and paid apprenticeship opportunities  on the project, with a focus on diverse apprentices. CVS Health has committed to hiring more than 200 successful participants over the next three years.

The State of Illinois is providing $500 million in capital funding to launch DPI and establish its Innovation Network at regional universities throughout the state. DPI is part of the University of Illinois System.

“This new building is a testament to the innovation and forward-thinking ideas Illinois aims to foster across the state,” said Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton. “The future headquarters will also show how much we can do to grow and progress when we invest in infrastructure that pushes us forward. That was the mission of Rebuild Illinois, and the funds coming from this plan continue to positively shape diverse communities throughout the state.”

Located on a one-acre site southwest of the Loop, the new DPI headquarters will provide more than 200,000 sq. ft. of office, classroom, lab, and event space for DPI and its university and industry partners.

“Chicago has long been known as a hub for technology and innovation, and is home to incredible industry talent,” said Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “With this new building, DPI will both build on this reputation and be able to draw from our robust talent pool. I look forward to seeing this project come to life and kick off the creation of our city’s new innovation district.”

“The Chicago/Skills apprenticeship program is a much-needed investment for our communities,” said State Senator Tony Munoz (D-Chicago). “Oftentimes people don’t have the means to gain the skills needed to find a job in the labor force. This apprenticeship program will give more people the training they need to be successful.”

The goal for the ground level-design is to make the building a public amenity designed for scientists, students, professors, entrepreneurs and industry to collaborate and build things together.

“As an anchor of The 78 and a building with world-class architecture, the Discovery Partners Institute will uphold Chicago’s tradition of innovative design,” said Ann Thompson, executive vice president of architecture and design at Related Midwest and board chair of the Chicago Architecture Center. “Related Midwest is proud to collaborate on this important project, and we welcome the way it stands as a prototype for how equitable design transforms communities.”

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