New $60 million science center key to North Central College's future

 
 
Posted5/18/2015 5:30 AM
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  • Construction of a new science center at North Central College in Naperville began Friday with a groundbreaking ceremony. The college is raising $60 million for the new facility to provide updated teaching and research labs, seminar rooms, offices and student gathering spaces.

    Construction of a new science center at North Central College in Naperville began Friday with a groundbreaking ceremony. The college is raising $60 million for the new facility to provide updated teaching and research labs, seminar rooms, offices and student gathering spaces. Courtesy of North Central College

  • North Central College President Troy Hammond says a new science center was a top priority when he joined the college more than two years ago. On Friday, he spoke at a groundbreaking ceremony for the new building, for which the college is raising $60 million.

      North Central College President Troy Hammond says a new science center was a top priority when he joined the college more than two years ago. On Friday, he spoke at a groundbreaking ceremony for the new building, for which the college is raising $60 million. Marie Wilson | Staff Photographer

  • North Central College officials gather Friday for a groundbreaking ceremony of a new $60 million science center that will include 18 teaching labs, 16 research labs, 15 classrooms, a lecture hall, 19 student gathering spaces and 53 offices for faculty and staff members.

      North Central College officials gather Friday for a groundbreaking ceremony of a new $60 million science center that will include 18 teaching labs, 16 research labs, 15 classrooms, a lecture hall, 19 student gathering spaces and 53 offices for faculty and staff members. Marie Wilson | Staff Photographer

North Central College has broken ground on a project that officials say will play a major role in the Naperville school's continued success: a $60 million science center.

"This is going to be a fantastic facility that is going to transform North Central College," President Troy Hammond told hundreds gathered Friday to launch construction at the southwest corner of Loomis Street and Van Buren Avenue.

The 125,000-square-foot facility will include 18 teaching labs, 16 research labs, 15 classrooms, a lecture hall, 19 student gathering spaces, 53 offices, a greenhouse, a rain garden and a convenience shop.

Officials say the facility will be a significant upgrade from the 35-year-old Kroehler Science Center. It will provide more space as the college adjusts to the interdisciplinary and collaborative way science now is taught, said Hammond, who previously held positions in the energy and technology industries.

The building also will allow for enrollment of science majors to increase and for all students to get a strong education in the scientific process of discovery, said Holly Humphrey of Hinsdale, a North Central trustee.

"Many more students, through the study of science, will make important discoveries about themselves," said Humphrey, who remembers learning in the Kroehler Science Center before her graduation in 1979. "Discovery is at the heart of a comprehensive liberal arts college."

Freshman biochemistry major Kelsey LaMartina of Plainfield said she's excited to use the new building, scheduled to open in summer 2017, for her senior year. Even without the new science center, she said she's impressed by North Central's science professors, their knowledge and their dedication to helping students excel.

"This new facility will give them even more ways to help propel students toward an even more brilliant future," LaMartina said.

The groundbreaking for the science center came as the college sponsored its annual Cornerstone Picnic and an evening gala to launch its Brilliant Future fundraising campaign. The college aims to generate $150 million for the science center, a new dorm being built south of Chicago Avenue, scholarships, faculty and new educational opportunities.

Before plans for the new science center gained approval from the Naperville City Council, some neighbors were concerned about the size of the building, which will stand 46½ feet tall. After an initial denial from the city's historic preservation commission, the college made some tweaks that shrunk the height by 2 feet, lowered a wall that will hide a circulation fan by 4 feet and incorporated a new design element to provide a more unified roof line.

Mayor Steve Chirico said he supports the project and the educational, cultural and economic benefits it will bring.

"A great city like Naperville deserves to have a great college," Chirico said. "A new scie nce center will allow them to continue that upward trajectory."

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