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North Central College lays out its 10-year plan
By Melissa Jenco | Daily Herald Staff

North Central College President Harold Wilde believes the Naperville school's 10-year master land use plan will benefit not only the college but also the city and surrounding neighborhood.

 

Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

North Central College President Harold Wilde believes the Naperville school's 10-year master land-use plan will benefit not only the college but also the city and surrounding neighborhood.

 

Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

North Central College's new Res/Rec Center combines student housing with workout facilities that neighbors also can use.

 

Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

North Central College's new Res/Rec Center combines student housing with workout facilities that neighbors can use.

 

Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

The top priority in North Central College's 10-year plan is a new science center so that students like Jillian Urbas and Jessica Hulesch, right, will have the tools they need to compete in the job market.

 

Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

The top priority in North Central College's 10-year plan is a new science center so that students like Galen Norman, left, and Joe Longawa will have the tools they need to compete in the job market.

 

Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

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Published: 2/26/2010 10:08 AM

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North Central College leaders envision a new science center; additional classroom, office and living space; and maybe even a new pool in the school's future.

The college near downtown Naperville is laying out potential projects in its 2010-2020 master land-use plan, which is meant as a guide for the projects.

"It's very flexible," college President Harold Wilde said. "It throws out a lot of good ideas. Ideas that would be good not just for North Central College, but for the neighborhood and Naperville in general."

Paul Loscheider, vice president for business affairs, jokes that it is the "2020 perfect vision of the college."

College leaders and nearby residents alike agree there aren't as many large - or controversial - projects as some past plans, although neighbors do have some concerns regarding potential building heights and locations.

Among the college's top priorities in the plan is a new science center. Currently, science classes meet in Kroehler Science Center, built in 1969. In addition to physical deficiencies that need to be remedied, the building is not conducive to the latest methods and technology used in teaching science, college leaders say.

While the college has not drawn up any blueprints for such a center yet, Loscheider said new science centers are typically 80,000 to 125,000 square feet. In addition to the usual science subjects of biology, chemistry and physics, the new facility also would be home to computer technology, math and psychology.

"The science faculty is starting to look at how are we going to teach science in the next 20 years - what do we have to have for that," Loscheider said.

The college has narrowed the possible locations for the building to four. On the north side of campus it could go just west of Kiekhofer Hall on the site of the Larrance Academic Center and adjacent parking lot. It also could be placed just east of Loomis Street on the site of Kimmel and Seybert residence halls.

If officials decide to go with a mid-campus location, the prime spot would be adjacent to the existing Kroehler Science Center, or even replacing the current building.

On the far south side of campus, a dry pond site is another possibility.

Loscheider said if the college builds a science facility, it would stay within the 50-foot height restriction.

Carol Schmidt, president of the nearby East Central Homeowners Organization, said a science center likely would have the greatest impact on the neighborhood of anything in the plan.

"People do get concerned about (the idea that) this is a great big building in my neighborhood," Schmidt said.

Even with a new science center, Loscheider said the college may need additional academic space and faculty offices.

The current classrooms, he said, are not conducive to group work, while many offices are located in college-owned houses.

Possible locations for academic buildings include the block just south of Van Buren near Loomis and the southwest corner of Chicago Avenue and Brainard Street.

School leaders also anticipate the potential need for more student housing in the years to come.

The college currently has about 2,800 students, including about 2,333 full-time undergraduates. It recently opened its new Res/Rec center with both residential and workout components, bringing the number of beds available to 1,361.

If demand for beds grows, the college still can build out the fourth floor of the Res/Rec Center, providing another 104 beds.

Many of the school's current dorms also need renovation or replacement. If the need for more beds arises, leaders have identified several potential locations for new student housing, including the site of the current Student Village or just north of it. The southwest corner of Chicago Avenue and Brainard Street is another possibility.

Another new facility in the 10-year plan is a swimming pool. The current pool has four 25-yard lanes and is not up to standards to host an intercollegiate swim meet. The college is considering creating a larger pool between the Res/Rec Center and Merner Field House. However, officials say a "highly motivated donor" would be needed to make the pool a reality.

Despite the proposals for new facilities around campus, Loscheider said the college plans to stay within its current boundaries. However, leaders are open to expansion if a worthwhile opportunity arises. One possibility may be the Little Friends site on Wright Street. Loscheider said if the group ever decides to relocate, the college may consider buying the property, which it once owned.

Leaders also don't plan to fill every last nook and cranny of the campus with concrete.

"One of the things we said was we've got to keep green and open space in here," he said. "Let's not just put buildings all over the place."

The 10-year plan also includes rehab work to existing buildings like Oesterle Library, Merner Field House and Pfeiffer Hall.

The plan does not include an increase in parking on campus.

"Is there the ability to create more parking? Yes. Is there a desire to? No," Loscheider said. "The desire is to manage parking to reduce that. In addition, it's part of our sustainability as well."

North Central has been using All Saints Catholic Academy property on Aurora Avenue as a remote parking lot and shuttling students to and from campus. A shuttle is also available to get to the Westfield Fox Valley Shopping Center and other stores.

The college also rents out Zipcars by the hour and has increased the price of campus parking permits to discourage students from parking there.

Schmidt said neighbors sometimes have trouble finding a parking space near their homes. While she'd like to see more parking, she also admits it's a bit of a Catch 22 in that more parking means more traffic congestion.

While the college may have big dreams for its campus, the plan is by no means set in stone. Loscheider said the biggest challenge in making the plan a reality will be money. He anticipates much of the funding would come from gifts. The college would rather not borrow money for projects like the science center that won't produce a revenue stream to repay the loans.

In addition to getting donors on board, the college also will seek approval from Naperville's plan commission and city council this spring.

Loscheider said there have been numerous meetings with neighbors, faculty and city staff to try to alleviate concerns early on in the process.

"There's still some things people won't agree with and we know that," he said. "We'll work out whatever differences we can, or at least agree to disagree, but we're not being disagreeable. That's the important part."

Schmidt is encouraging her neighbors to pay close attention to the projects as the plans evolve. But she agreed with Loscheider that the process, thus far, has been better than in past years.

"The college is a great organization, it does great things for the neighborhood, it's a great neighbor to us," she said. "They've worked hard over the last few years to build that relationship, maintain open communication so there aren't surprises."

The full plan is available online at northcentralcollege.edu/Documents/business_office/master_land_use_plan.pdf. The plan likely will go before Naperville's plan commission in April, then to the city council.