Harper plans to restart building project after getting state funds

  • Construction on the renovated and expanded student center at Harper College could resume within a year, after the school receives long-promised state funds for the project.

    Construction on the renovated and expanded student center at Harper College could resume within a year, after the school receives long-promised state funds for the project. Courtesy of Harper College

  • A one-stop student center consolidating admissions, registrar, financial aid and business offices that are currently spread throughout Harper's campus would be part of a renovated and expanded student center.

    A one-stop student center consolidating admissions, registrar, financial aid and business offices that are currently spread throughout Harper's campus would be part of a renovated and expanded student center. Courtesy of Harper College

 
 
Updated 7/26/2017 5:46 PM

Now that Illinois has a budget, Harper College is making preparations to resume work on a dormant construction site where one of the school's original 1960s-era buildings will be expanded and renovated.

That said, it still could take almost another year before shovels are in the ground, officials estimate.

 

Construction started in spring 2015 on the Palatine-based community college's one-stop student center, which would consolidate the admissions, registrar, financial aid and business offices currently spread throughout campus. Plans also call for academic advising, student organizations and multipurpose space for dining and studying in the building.

The project would include construction of additions to the existing Buildings K and A, where the school's main kitchen would also be modernized and expanded.

Work on underground utilities had already begun when the last state budget expired in June 2015 -- the beginning of a historic stalemate marked by a feud between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan. Without state funds to continue work, the construction site was sealed up, leaving the project in limbo the past two years.

Funding for the student center -- $42 million for construction and $4.37 million for the hospitality program located within the building -- was included in the state budget approved earlier this month. The overall estimated costs are about $62 million and $5.2 million, respectively -- with the difference being picked up by Harper.

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Since the project has been on hold for two years, college officials believe it's likely costs have escalated by several million dollars, Harper spokeswoman Kim Pohl said. Final construction costs won't be known until the college goes out to bid again -- a process that could take six months -- after which it would be another several months before work begins, according to Pohl.

Original cost projections made when the student center was proposed and the state's Capital Development Board approved its share of funding put the price tag at $52 million. But when the project went out to bid in 2014, costs had already risen by $10 million. Harper's board approved covering the difference out of college funds.

Harper officials are now working with the Capital Development Board to get the money released, while a long-dormant Harper steering committee overseeing the project has started meeting again so work can resume once funds arrive.

The building will be named the Canning Center, after benefactors John and Rita Canning, who made a $1 million donation to the college's women's program in 2014.

Meanwhile, two other Harper construction projects not reliant on state dollars have been moving along as scheduled. A $27 million refurbishment of the school's library and $38 million renovation of the school's Wellness and Sports Center are scheduled to be complete in fall 2018.

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