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updated: 10/29/2013 7:44 AM

North Central chooses site for new science center

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North Central College officials planning a new science center that will transform the campus and its educational opportunities have chosen a location for the building they hope to open in fall 2017.

The science center, a $60 million, 125,000-square-foot building, will be located south of Van Buren Avenue between Loomis and Brainard streets on the college's campus near downtown Naperville.

Creating a new facility to replace the Kroehler Science Center has become a top priority for North Central, especially under the leadership of President Troy Hammond, who has a Ph.D. in atomic physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"North Central College has a rich tradition of preparing students to become great leaders in the sciences, and our new facility will ensure the continuation of that legacy for generations to come," Hammond said in a written statement.

The Kroehler center opened in 1970 when the college served only one-third of the 3,048 undergraduate and graduate students it enrolls this year. A new building will help the college meet the need for students trained in STEM or Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, said Paul Loscheider, vice president for business affairs.

"The way that STEM is taught nowadays is very different than it was," Loscheider said. "There's much more collaboration in the learning process and this building will foster that."

The new center will include combined teaching and lab space, collaborative research space, communal areas for interdisciplinary work and additional classrooms to accommodate future enrollment. While biology, chemistry and physics will be taught there, so will psychology, math, computer science -- even other liberal arts and business classes, Loscheider said.

Using a location now occupied by several houses holding faculty offices, Holabird & Root of Chicago will design the specifics of the science center during the coming months, spokesman Ted Slowik said. Trustees decided the area south of Van Buren between Loomis and Brainard would be the best of several possible sites identified in the college's 2010 master land use plan.

Architects will consider the college's residential neighbors as they design the lighting and layout of the new building, which is required by zoning code to be less than 50 feet tall.

If fundraising for the largest project in North Central's 153-year history stays on track, the college plans to open the science center in fall 2017. Loscheider said naming rights are available to be claimed by a major donor as the college seeks gifts to fund construction.

"The addition of a world-class science facility will have a tremendous impact on the entire campus," Hammond said. "We are eager to add a facility that will enable North Central to remain one of the finest comprehensive liberal arts and science colleges in the nation and a vital part of Naperville's educational, cultural and economic future."

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