It came down to size.
Historic preservation commission members in Naperville who denied North Central College's request to demolish six structures to make way for a new science center said Thursday night they were most concerned with the dimensions of the proposed science building.
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Designed as a three-story, 125,000-square-foot facility that would stand 48 feet tall, the $60 million science center is proposed for the west side of Loomis Street between Van Buren and Chicago avenues. "And it's simply too big to be right across the street from houses, said several commission members who turned down the college's request by a 6-1 vote.
"I just don't understand the mass," Commissioner Larry Larsen said. "This size is just exponential growth. It does some things to the neighborhood that I don't find very appealing."
Commissioners were echoing neighbors' concerns with the size of the building, which North Central College officials said they need in order to advance education in the growing fields of science, technology, engineering and math.
"This is a priority for us. It's a science and technology future," North Central College President Troy Hammond said. "If you look at where jobs are in our environment today, jobs are in STEM fields."
Commissioner Peter Fissinger, who voted in favor of allowing the college to demolish the dormitory and five houses that sit on the proposed science center site, said the college made a "compelling case for why they need this building."
While others on the commission also said they saw the need, they suggested the college reconsider the building's size or location.
"This is a tough decision for me. Here I'm voting to demolish historic homes or I'm potentially standing in the way of a facility the college needs," Commissioner Tim Messer said. "I do think a building of this size will be detrimental to the character of the historic district. I'm having a hard time thinking this is the right place for a building of this size."
The historic preservation commission is tasked with reviewing the appropriateness of structures planned within Naperville's historic district. Its denial of North Central's request means the college can appeal the same plan to the city council or come back to the commission with an updated proposal.
Hammond said officials will regroup soon to determine which route to take.