Roosevelt University’s smooth integration moves
Within a short 10 months, Roosevelt University integrated campuses and facilities of Robert Morris University—saving millions along the way.
450,000 square feet of space eliminated from the combined portfolio
Approximately $10 million in annual real estate cost reductions
4 leased facilities exited; completed approximately 23 projects and relocations
Named in honor of the former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Roosevelt University has served a diverse student body since 1945. Social justice is a cornerstone of Roosevelt's history and is purposefully embedded into every student's academic experience. With enrollment of more than 4,000, Roosevelt serves students from its campuses in downtown Chicago, the suburban city of Schaumburg and Lake County, Illinois.
In downtown Chicago, Roosevelt’s Wabash Avenue vertical campus is the tallest educational building in the city. When the university received approval to integrate with Robert Morris University, including programs and facilities, such as the flagship Wabash building, presented a major challenge. Roosevelt would need to integrate Robert Morris’ associate and bachelor’s degree programs serving approximately 1,900 students, as well as consolidate multiple campuses—within 10 months and during a global pandemic.
The integration was part of Roosevelt’s “Building a Stronger University” strategy, in which Roosevelt will improve efficiency through collaborations with local institutions. Roosevelt’s ambition is to be nationally recognized as a catalyst for students from all walks of life to receive transformational learning experiences.
Roosevelt turned to JLL to help guide and implement a streamlined process on a fast-paced timeline. JLL would be able to quickly navigate university initiatives, because the firm had previously helped Roosevelt develop its 32-story downtown campus building and its Lillian and Larry Goodman Center.
Shortening the learning curve was essential to meet Roosevelt’s aggressive 10-month integration timeline. The facilities team, comprising Roosevelt and JLL personnel, needed to rationalize the two institutions’ portfolios of leased and owned facilities in downtown, suburban and downstate locations—and align programs, facilities and student needs.
“In a fast-moving merger integration, you need a team that helps you make the best decisions and implement them flawlessly.”
A strong program management solution
Since one goals of the integration was to reduce administrative overhead, real estate and facilities efficiency was critical. In response, the real estate team launched a four-phase program to assess curriculum and capacity across all facilities; manage construction projects required for integration; manage the physical integration; and rebalance Roosevelt’s real estate portfolio as a whole. Given the myriad program goals, the program encompassed approximately 100 different workflows.
Phase 1: Aligning curriculum and real estate
First, the real estate team facilitated a workshop with Roosevelt leaders to assess hyper-local job markets and demand for academic programs. Through JLL’s GIS technology and research capabilities, the team compared course offerings at each campus to in-demand skill sets in surrounding areas. The team also examined enrolment trends at different locations as a factor whether particular sites should be retained.
Phase 2: The 20+ project marathon
Consolidation plan in hand, numerous real estate renovations and reconfigurations would be necessary to accommodate the requirements of the combined institutions. First, the team had to build consensus among diverse stakeholders about how spaces should be used, balancing facility needs with overall funding.
After narrowing down nearly 40 proposed projects to a concise 23 priorities, the team developed budgets and aggressive timelines for each endeavor. Using a best-in-class technology platform, the team seamlessly managed all of the moving pieces to avoid missteps. Then, as projects were completed, the relocation management team ensured that faculty, staff and students were smoothly welcomed into their new spaces.
Phase 3: Consolidation
Next, the team undertook major facilities consolidations. Analyzing the combined portfolio as a whole, the team initially focused on the disposition of Robert Morris’ leased facilities in Waukegan and Orland Park, as well as its 365,000-square-foot core academic building at 401 S. State Street in downtown Chicago. The Integration transaction team would next establish the Robert Morris Experiential College, with programs delivered through Roosevelt’s owned facilities.
During the planning of the relocation from 401 S. State Street, rapid spread of COVID-19 triggered a state-wide stay-at-home order—and an urgent need to exit the State Street facility immediately. The project team was able to quickly mobilize vendors to coalesce around the complex relocation program. Within a month, the programs, faculty and staff based at 401 S. State Street were transitioned into Roosevelt’s landmark vertical campus building downtown, the Schaumberg campus or Roosevelt’s historic Auditorium Building.
Phase 4: Rebalancing the portfolio
In the final program phase, the team analysed under-utilized space and solutions for programs requiring specialized space. Given the unique nature of higher education facilities, the facilities team had to think creatively to address particular portfolio issues.
When Robert Morris’ culinary program was displaced by a lease exit, for instance, through JLL’s local market connections, the team was able to secure a short-term lease of excess space from an adult cooking school downtown, avoiding immediate expense of a costly build-out.
At Roosevelt’s Auditorium Building, vacant leasable office and classroom space around its 4,200-seat theatre meant lost revenue opportunities. JLL market research identified a local charter school seeking a new facility. The school, which aims to helping young men succeed in college—in line with Roosevelt’s mission—ultimately leased the space, providing hundreds of thousands of dollars in rental income for Roosevelt.
Completing a smooth integration
The new Roosevelt now has the right facilities in place to support 4071 enrolled students and 197 full-time faculty in six colleges offering 64 undergraduate majors, 38 minors and 54 graduate programs. A whopping 450,000 square feet of space has been removed from the combined campus portfolio, and underutilized spaces have been either repurposed or eliminated from the portfolio.
Faculty and students enjoy two renovated libraries, three new faculty suites for new programs and faculty, and 15 renovated classrooms and laboratories. Students from the former Robert Morris live with their peers in Roosevelt’s on-campus downtown residence hall.
Through a well-rounded project management team, collaboration, streamlined methodology and a portfolio strategy infused with creativity, Roosevelt was able to combine its facilities in time to welcome faculty, staff and students in the new academic year. As a national pioneer in major higher education consolidations, Roosevelt proved that it could smoothly accelerate a major complex integration.