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New ideas for old Hubble Middle School site
By Jack Komperda | Daily Herald Staff

Sallie Hood, left, and Ronald Sakal, from the Center for Building Communities, show a class of architecture students information about the Hubble Middle School site in Wheaton.


Marcelle Bright | Staff Photographer

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Published: 9/2/2008 12:07 PM

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Wheaton is getting some youthful help in its efforts to rebuild the old Hubble Middle School property into a vibrant part of its downtown.

A group of Notre Dame University architecture students will be spending the next semester using the school as a model for one of its upper-level design classes.

The group of 10 students spent Labor Day weekend touring the school building at Naperville and Roosevelt roads and meeting with Wheaton government and business leaders to get a sense of what the community would want to see built on the 22-acre site.

Notre Dame professor Ron Sakal, who is teaching the class this semester, said the parcel presented an ideal real-world teaching tool for his students.

Sakal and his class were drawn to the city development project by Wheaton resident Paul Colgan, a Notre Dame alumnus who's been involved in several community groups organized to create design ideas for Hubble.

"What's interesting about the Hubble site is it's very walkable to the commuter train station and can be made a part of downtown," Colgan said. "The students got a chance over the weekend to see how the space is used now, and we're going to want to enhance that 'Central Park' quality about it."

By the end of the year, Sakal's design class plans to be back in Wheaton presenting its ideas to community leaders.

Wheaton Mayor Michael Gresk said he's excited about the students' efforts, and hopes their work will add another element to the many ideas that have been sought over the years concerning the Hubble property.

"You can always use a fresh pair of eyes," Gresk said. "I'm impressed with the makeup of the group. Most of them are from not only all over the country but other parts of the world. As youthful as they are, these students bring to the table different experiences."

Next week, the city council will be hearing proposals from three consulting firms interested in helping Wheaton plan for the redevelopment of Hubble. The city has $175,000 budgeted this year for the firm that will ultimately be chosen to do the work.

Once chosen, the firm could take as long as two years to create a redevelopment plan for the Hubble site and have interested developers lined up for the work. The property won't be available for redevelopment until August 2009. That's when the new Hubble Middle School in Warrenville is set to be complete. The new Hubble is being constructed along Herrick Road between Butterfield and Warrenville roads.

The most recent appraisal of the Hubble site in Wheaton valued the property at $22 million.