Parking -- specifically the lack of convenient spaces -- has been a long-standing grievance of many Harper College students, so one of the many construction projects on the Palatine community college's horizon will address just that.
The board of trustees this week unanimously approved construction contracts to build a $14 million parking garage on the east side of campus. Work is expected to begin next month and last 18 months.
"Pretty much since the college opened, there have been complaints about how far you have to walk," Harper spokesman Phil Burdick said.
The four-story, indoor parking structure will house 825 parking spaces. It will replace a current lot, resulting in a net gain of 625 spaces. Bids came in under the $16 million budget.
The campus doesn't enjoy an abundance of open space, so officials deemed a parking garage necessary to accommodate the demand. It was one of three recommended in Harper's 2011 campus master plan, though there are no plans to go forward with the other two garages at this time.
When the project is complete, Harper will have nearly 5,200 parking spaces for about 38,000 students who attend class on campus.
"Enrollment has slowed, but we don't see that as a continuing trend (in the long-term)," Burdick said.
The structure will be connected to Building D and Building H, both of which are undergoing major renovations.
Building D, currently getting a $46 million makeover, will house the math department, academic enrichment and engagement, general classrooms and two new lecture halls.
Building H is undergoing a $38 million renovation, of which the state is paying 75 percent due to Harper's partnership with the Capital Development Board. It will accommodate the special classroom and laboratory needs of career and technical programs such as HVAC, welding and the new Advanced Manufacturing program.
"Part of the master plan was to connect all the buildings eventually so once you're inside Harper, you don't have to go outside," Burdick said. "About three-fourths is connected now."
The parking garage also will house 9,600 square feet of warehouse space for the physical plant department, which will use the area to store general supplies and equipment for road and grounds.