Waubonsee Community College's $50 million new campus in downtown Aurora is getting set for its June 1 scheduled opening, as workers install technology and furnishings inside the building.
And when the campus is up and running, school and city officials say it should boost downtown Aurora's economy and Aurora residents' education.
"I think it will be very positive," Mayor Tom Weisner said. "When you talk about economic development, there's no greater input, positive input, into economic development than having an educated work force."
The new campus at 18 S. River St. will offer a broader range of associate's degree-level classes than the college's current downtown location at 5 E. Galena Blvd., college spokesman Jeff Noblitt said. Courses will be offered in health care, legal interpreting, real estate sales, sign language, marketing and other fields.
"It's going to be very different than what we have now because it will be a comprehensive campus," Noblitt said. "What we have now in downtown Aurora does not offer the depth and breadth of programs that will be offered at the new campus including the ability to start and finish an associate degree."
The 132,000 square foot-building will include eight computer classrooms, a biology lab, a chemistry lab and a day care center. Wireless Internet access also will be available throughout the facility.
"It's a perfect fit," said Patricia Stich, an assistant professor of administrative office systems who will be teaching health information technology classes in the new campus. "Health care and technology -- we have to have them both accessible to students."
The city and the college are working on the details of a parking agreement that may allow students to park in a lot created by the recent demolition of the old YWCA building, officials from both organizations said.
A wider offering of programs will bring more teachers to the campus, and Weisner said he hopes teachers and students will visit downtown Aurora restaurants and businesses before or after classes. Enrollment at the new campus is expected to start at about 3,000 students each semester, Noblitt said.
"It will serve an even broader range of educational needs for both our young folks and also for those going back to school later in life," Weisner said. "I think it's a great attribute and a great opportunity for our people."
The campus will continue the adult education, community education and work force development programs that have been held in the downtown Aurora campus since 1966, Noblitt said.
Aside from its improvement in educational offerings, Weisner said the building's physical appearance is a great improvement over the blighted look of the storefronts previously on River Street. Noblitt said the building includes a number of environmentally-friendly features, such as a white roof that reduces the buildup of heat, and a driveway constructed with permeable pavers that allow rain to filter through to the ground.
"It's a huge upgrade for our students," Noblitt said. "It's a symbol of the fact that downtown Aurora is experiencing a renaissance."