New University Commons

new rendering of approved building exterior

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Plan Unveiled

Construction of new facility replacing Norris University Center approved by trustees.

A two-year process led by Northwestern’s Division of Student Affairs, working with Ennead Architects of New York City and Northwestern’s Facilities Management, has produced an inclusive and comprehensive schematic design. The Educational Properties Committee of the University’s Board of Trustees recently voted unanimously to support construction of the new center, located on the current site of the Norris University Center on the Evanston campus.

To read more about this visit Northwestern News.

Vision for a Vibrant Campus Community

Northwestern University students have always been extremely creative, enterprising, and socially conscious. While comfortable in multiple areas of inquiry and interest, our community often finds itself limited by a lack of collaborative space. Without a central campus hub, our students do not have enough opportunities to interact with those outside of their major or school.

Imagine instead a welcoming, dynamic space where the entire community comes to meet, learn, and relax in a stunning lakeside setting. Picture a building buzzing with activity where members of nearly 500 student groups learn by doing and grow as leaders, where student-produced art animates theater spaces, where students and faculty showcase their latest research discoveries, or where a conversation that starts over pizza ends with an entrepreneurial business idea. And, consider a space where alumni can proudly bring their families and relive college memories, perhaps recruiting future Wildcats along the way. This beacon of connectivity would offer the true Northwestern experience rich with intersection, innovation, and engagement.

The University is dedicated to preparing global leaders respectful, empathic, collaborative citizens. They grow through exposure to new people and perspectives, by working together, and by spending quality time together. This is why an environment like the new University Commons is essential to our mission.
Julie Payne-Kirchmeier, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs

With input from across campus, including approximately 5,500 students, faculty, staff, and community members, Northwestern leadership has developed a bold plan for a new University Commons that will be designed to accomplish these ambitions. It will be the epicenter for University groups and events; the portal for global interaction, diversity, and inclusion at Northwestern; a connection point for students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends; and a symbolic home for the entire Northwestern community for generations to come.

The University Commons will help advance a key pillar of Northwestern's strategic plan connecting our community. We are working to build an even more vibrant, diverse, and inclusive community on our campuses. Today's students expect a well-rounded collegiate experience, including outstanding opportunities for social interaction and connected learning outside the classroom. In order to compete for the best students and faculty and to maintain a strong campus community, we must provide a student life experience that matches our academic excellence. Essential to achieving these goals are well-designed physical spaces & facilities devoted to pursuing passions, hands-on learning, social interaction, and community building.

Providing Common Ground

The University Commons-a new facility built on the foundation of the Norris University Center will provide unique, appealing, and in-demand spaces and services for our campus, allowing Northwestern to attract a diverse group of the best and brightest students and faculty.

At the current University Center, there is not enough space for students and other University community members to gather and collaborate. More flexible areas that accommodate a range of needs are essential to enriching Northwestern's position as a desirable campus setting. Further, many students are not motivated to visit the University Center, because it cannot offer the range of amenities needed to be a destination. And, they see what peer schools provide at their student centers and realize that the offerings at our current facility are outdated.

Space to Keep Pace

Today's campus community is more creative, engaged, and inspired than ever. Nine out of 10 Wildcats participate in a student organization. There is considerable demand for space at the Norris University Center, but the current volume and scope of activities has outgrown the available resources.

The new University Commons will dramatically expand the social amenities and support resources available to undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, staff, and visitors, and define a truly inclusive and engaging common ground for the entire Northwestern community. The approximately 222,000 square-foot building nearly one-third larger than its predecessor will accommodate significantly more people and promote greater inclusion, learning experiences, and engagement opportunities for all. Always looking toward the future and evolving with the needs of the campus, the Commons will be a dynamic hub connecting academics and leisure, campus and community. This is the future of university center design, and we intend to build it at Northwestern.


Northwestern has always been an entrepreneurial, pioneering place, and the new University Commons embodies these important ideals. This extraordinary new facility will provide the entire Northwestern community with one of the finest university centers available anywhere in the world and demonstrate our commitment to providing an exemplary student life experience.
-Morton Schapiro, President

Click here to donate to the New University Commons project.