Three years after taxpayers overwhelmingly approved a $153.6 million bond referendum to update Harper College's aging infrastructure, only a fraction of the money has been spent.
But the Palatine community college's efforts are ramping up, with plans moving forward on a 10-year campus master plan aimed at modernizing facilities, increasing energy efficiency and putting up new buildings.
"Enrollment is predicted to grow 3 percent each year for 10 years, and the density of the campus is already intense," Harper President Ken Ender said. "As good as the campus looks today, it's going to look better and sets us up to be more competitive."
About $6.5 million already has been put toward less exciting but necessary improvements to roofs, elevators, lighting and HVAC systems, much of which students likely haven't noticed.
Here's an overview of upcoming projects that will have a bigger impact on their college experience:
• Though it likely won't open for another five years, Harper officials are most excited about plans for a Campus Life Center, a one-stop facility that combines admissions, financial aid, the business office, student services, counseling and tutoring.
The state will pay for the majority of the $50.2 million facility, which has been high on the Illinois' capital projects list for several years. The state has released $8 million so far. Harper's share will total $9.5 million.
"Right now, students have to traverse the campus east to west and north to south to take care of the business of being a student," Ender said. "This needs to be an easier place to do business and much of our architecture doesn't support that."
Last month, the board of trustees recommended that the state Capital Development Board choose Chicago-based Cannon Design for architectural and engineering services.
Part of the building likely will house Harper's hospitality program, which will get a much-needed $5.2 million makeover. Its students today are located in a dingy basement and, in many cases, use decades old equipment in outdated work spaces.
• The first big project to break ground will be a reconfiguration of the college's Roselle Road and Euclid Avenue entrances.
That's welcome news to thousands of drivers all too familiar with traffic backups and near-collisions that often result from the awkward layouts. And Ender said he was surprised to learn a recent traffic study showed just as many motorists utilize Euclid as they do the main Algonquin Road entrance, making changes all the more urgent.
Construction on the $4.5 million redesign will take place next summer and, with the exception of landscaping and other odds and ends, is expected to wrap up before the fall semester begins, according to Thomas Crylen, Harper's executive director of facilities management.
• The $38.9 million G and H Building remodeling project is progressing, with construction expected to begin in June and take two years to complete.
Since the state is contributing $20.3 million, $4 million of which has been released, its Capital Development Board is closely reviewing plans. Half the required construction documents are finished and drawings are on schedule to be ready by the end of the year.
"With the state in the financial position it's in, you're never quite sure when the money will come," Harper spokesman Phil Burdick said. "But we're relatively comfortable they'll follow through."
The Engineering and Technology Center, as it will be known, will house occupational programs including architectural technology, HVAC, maintenance technology, law enforcement, fire science, emergency management, interior design and fashion design.
Crylen said the new facility will be LEED silver-certified, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Plans include the use of sustainable materials, a white, reflective roof to lower energy costs and more natural light.
The buildings currently are vacant, and classes and labs have been relocated around the campus, creating cramped conditions in certain areas. But tight quarters aren't the only reason officials are anxious to move forward with construction.
"These are certificates that have immediate labor attachment, so it has to be the first priority in this economy," Ender said.
• A $46.5 million plan to retrofit and expand Building D is expected to start in a year and take about 18 months to complete.
Despite the hefty price tag, officials say it could have been higher. They once thought the building, one of Harper's original facilities dating back to 1967, was an obvious tear-down. Retrofitting it will save millions of dollars.
The layout is a nightmare to navigate for people with physical disabilities because of its many level changes. And design students often end up working in the hallway to capture more natural light.
Harper officials believe that since no state money is being used, it will be one of the school's quickest projects.
• A parking garage likely will be built on the northeast side of campus, which officials hope will placate students who complain of a lack of close spots.
It's unclear how the structure will be funded, however, so Ender said the college will have to explore implementing a fee system.
• A second phase slated to begin five years out will focus on updating the library and gutting Building M, which houses the school's gym and athletics.
• Phase three, which officials say may not happen because it's a low priority, calls for a possible university center where four-year institutions would put on programs.
Finally, an expansion may be added to the Avante Center and two additional parking decks would be built on the west side of campus.
There's little talk of building a public safety center, which at one time was a top priority, because a similar facility opened at the College of DuPage and one is being built at Elgin Community College.
Harper: Overview of upcoming projects