Wheaton College ready to start work on new home for Conservatory of Music

Wheaton College's Conservatory of Music is on track to have a new home inside Armerding Hall next year.

The school plans to start renovations on the hall, 520 E. Kenilworth Ave., this fall, including the replacement of windows, removal of a roof observatory and installation of new heating and cooling systems and accessible ramps.

College Architect Bruce Koenigsberg said the building housed science programs until they were moved to a new location on campus a few years ago. It is now vacant and undergoing asbestos abatement.

Aside from the renovation work, the Breyer Laboratory at 603 Irving Ave., will be demolished to make way for a new 550-seat concert hall that will be built during a second phase of work, which likely will begin in spring 2018. The laboratory is located directly west of Armerding Hall.

For now, the focus is on completing the renovations, so the music programs can move into Armerding Hall in fall 2017.

Koenigsberg said the conservatory has outgrown the space it occupies in McAlister Hall and Pierce Chapel.

“We have been aware of our inadequate facilities, even though the program remains very strong and vibrant,” he said. “We think an excellent world-class program deserves a bigger space.”

Koenigsberg said Pierce Chapel is not an ideal venue for music performances because it does not have air conditioning and is not acoustically isolated.

“There's a lot of stray noises that come in,” he said.

Programming currently held in Edman Chapel, including the College Artist Series, Christmas programing and commencement events, will continue in that space. But with 2,400 seats, it is oversized for most of the school's other music programming.

The new 550-seat concert hall — which at the earliest, would be completed around fall 2019 — and a recital hall that will be constructed in Armerding Hall during the first phase of work will serve as a new venue for faculty and senior recitals and other smaller music events.

So far, neighbors and members of the Wheaton College community have been supportive of the work, according to Koenigsberg.

“Having a really fine concert hall of this size in our community is of really high value for the town, as well as the college,” he said. “It's sort of like Wheaton getting a Wentz Hall of Naperville.”

Fundraising is ongoing for the $62 million project, which is part of a capital campaign that includes a new welcome center and investments in diversity scholarships and career services, among other initiatives.

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