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updated: 8/15/2012 3:24 PM

Wheaton College looks to beef up student housing

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Wheaton College wants to beef up student housing in a residential area bordering the campus, a move that's prompting concerns among some neighbors.

The plan, which will come before the city council on Aug. 20, calls for using several college-owned properties to house undergraduate students at 739 N. Irving Ave. and at 510 and 520 Sears Lane. A maximum of 26 students would occupy the three combined properties.

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If the project is approved, the college will begin assigning students to the houses this fall.

In addition, the college is looking to build a new play area on the former Wheaton Christian Grammar School property, purchased in 2009. The project would add a sand volleyball court and picnic area.

The college also wants to use the former grammar school building at 530 E. Harrison Ave. for storage and programs that could include extracurricular student activities.

Two other campus properties, at 821 and 825 N. Irving Ave., would be demolished for green space.

On Tuesday, Bruce Koenigsberg, the college's architect, said the houses would be added to a trash collection route when students are not on campus for Christmas, spring and summer breaks to collect newspapers or advertising fliers.

"We know that's a distraction to the neighbors and we don't want them to have to call us and say, 'You have things that need attention,'" Koenigsberg told the city's planning and zoning board. "We'd like to be proactive on it."

The college would provide student parking in an existing lot west of the former grammar school building. The college also would demolish a garage to construct an access drive from the lot to Sears Lane.

Celia Kuick, a resident on Irving Avenue, asked the board to restrict occupancy on Sears Lane until the new drive is completed and raised concerns about traffic during move-in times.

"It doesn't seem safe (or) fair to try to get 16 students moved into Sears Lane on one weekend," Kuick said.

Koenigsberg said the college would work with city staff to minimize traffic during move-in times for students and construction of the drive.

"We are really in need of those student beds," Koenigsberg said.

The planning board recommended approval of the project.

"I think they have in good faith come forward and said they're going to do what they can do with Sears Lane," said Patricia Schwarze, planning and zoning board member.

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