DEKALB, Ill. (AP) — Northern Illinois University held a ceremonial groundbreaking Monday for a $27 million renovation of the facility that houses performing arts, theater and other departments.

The Stevens Building opened in 1959 as the Fine Arts Building.

The renovation will include a new Black Box Theatre, scene shop space and a 330-seat lecture hall. Other updates will make the facility more accessible and provide new classrooms and laboratories for the anthropology department.

Rich Holly, dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts, said the renovation will bring improvements for students as well as the theater-going public.

"Having a renovated Stevens building is a wonderful opportunity for our students to be able to work in a state-of-the-art facility," Holly said.

With a new 33,000-square-foot addition, the building will be about 109,000 square feet when the project is complete. It's expected to be finished by October 2015.

The project is being funded by the state.

Gov. Pat Quinn, who participated in Monday's ceremony, said the improvements will "help (NIU) continue to attract students from across the nation and help them excel."

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