College of DuPage plans to launch a business incubator next fall in the Glen Ellyn Civic Center now that village trustees have approved an agreement with the school.
Educators and village leaders tout the proposed Innovation DuPage as a regional hub for business development that will funnel visitors to downtown shops and restaurants. The college plans to invest up to $2 million in renovations of the aging downtown building to make way for collaborative workspaces and offices.
The project touched off a debate over whether another taxing body should use the civic center spaces previously occupied by the police department. But only two trustees -- Pete Ladesic and Gary Fasules -- opposed the deal with the community college.
Fasules and Ladesic wanted to grant a request from Glen Ellyn Elementary District 41 for more time to develop a competing plan for the old police headquarters.
But other trustees didn't want to jeopardize the deal with COD after college officials cautioned that they would pursue other alternative sites for Innovation DuPage. The initial thought was to build the incubator on COD's Glen Ellyn campus, but officials said they preferred to operate in a high-profile downtown site with access to the Metra station.
Under the 10-year licensing agreement, COD will use 8,200 square feet of the civic center in addition to another 1,200 square feet of shared space. The college also will move its Center for Entrepreneurship, a program that started in 1984, from a Lisle office building to part of the civic center's second floor.
The COD board still needs to approve the pact. But as proposed, the school will pay the village a $2,500 monthly fee, or $30,000 a year. Starting in year six, the college will pay an additional $25,000 annual fee for building and parking maintenance.
Last month, COD trustees approved registering Innovation DuPage as a nonprofit corporation. To create the concept, the school has partnered with Choose DuPage, the county's economic development alliance; Naperville-based Rev3 Innovation Center, one of the pioneers of co-working in the suburbs; DuPage Impact LLC, an angel investor group; Benedictine University in Lisle; and Elmhurst College.
DuPage Impact has pledged to provide funding for eligible Innovation DuPage entrepreneurs that make a social impact through their startups or emerging companies. The college also is accepting applicants for an accelerator program for businesses that have operated for at least two years, generated revenues of at least $200,000 in the most-recent fiscal year and hired two employees or more.
Glen Ellyn District 41, meanwhile, had floated a plan to move park district administrative offices from the Spring Avenue Recreation Center to the civic center. District 41, in turn, would use the north wing of the rec center for an early learning program that serves about 150 students at Forest Glen Elementary.
School board President Stephanie Clark said she was disappointed in the village's decision.
"We were trying to get ahead to address space needs and I felt we had a good proposal and it wasn't even considered because COD gave the village an ultimatum," she said.
In a letter to his counterparts in the village and park district, Superintendent Paul Gordon wrote that all three sides have talked informally over the past 10 weeks about addressing space needs.
Executive Director Dave Harris has said the park district would need roughly 5,000 square feet to accommodate offices for 15 employees. It still would operate the southern wing of the rec center and the dog park behind the building.
But park leaders also say they're content where they are.
Space concerns surfaced in District 41 partly because of a proposed subdivision that could increase enrollment at Forest Glen.
The school district also has searched for space for full-day kindergarten. In 2016, building an early learning center on district-owned land was estimated to cost $29 million. That building was meant to house both preschool and kindergarten students.
Village President Diane McGinley said officials will work with the park and school districts to identify other spaces.
"I appreciate the fact that District 41 has come to us, and I actually think it has opened up the door to other possibilities that might not have been thought of before this," she said.