Naperville high-schoolers to present plans for repurposing Greene Farm barn

  • In a project designed to offer an authentic learning experience, Naperville Unit District 203 high-schoolers are developing plans for repurposing the Greene Farm barn and surrounding property owned by the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County.

    In a project designed to offer an authentic learning experience, Naperville Unit District 203 high-schoolers are developing plans for repurposing the Greene Farm barn and surrounding property owned by the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County. Daily Herald file photo

 
 
Updated 4/16/2019 7:11 PM

The community has weighed in. A special panel has been created. And now local high-schoolers will present their ideas for the future of the historic Greene Farm barn near Naperville.

In a project designed to create an authentic learning experience, teams of architecture and pre-engineering students from Naperville North and Naperville Central high schools have been working this semester to develop a vision for repurposing the barn and surrounding property.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County has been exploring possible public uses for the structure and an adjacent farmhouse, which have stood unused for decades at Greene and Hobson roads. Students now are gearing up to present their plans for the site to a panel of community judges in an April 24 competition at the Naperville Municipal Center.

"Having an authentic project like this is immeasurable," said Brian Dunn, who teaches the class at Naperville Central. "Realizing that this is something they've grown up with, they've seen it, they may have been there, and knowing that they have a true voice in the future and they actually get heard -- it's an unbelievable learning experience for them."

The classes toured the 14,000-square-foot barn last fall and learned about its history from Forest Preserve Commissioner Mary Lou Wehrli, who has been an advocate for finding a use for the structure since the district spent $1.2 million to stabilize it in 2012.

In January, student teams met with city and forest district officials, conducted research and began creating their concepts.

This is the fourth year Naperville Unit District 203 has partnered with the Naperville Development Partnership to offer the architectural authentic learning project. Previous assignments have focused on a strip mall on East Ogden Avenue, the 5th Avenue redevelopment near the train station, and a new gallery and exhibit building for Naper Settlement.

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The Greene Farm barn project is different in that there were few guidelines for repurposing the structure, other than respecting the property's history and ensuring the ideas fit with the surrounding community, said Rebecca DiOrio, who teaches the class at Naperville North. As a result, she said, teams were able to be creative and "push the envelope a bit."

Having such a wide scope was difficult for some students, who are used to being given more specific tasks, Dunn said. Most know how to draw, use design programs and put together a presentation, he said, but creating a new concept for the public to enjoy years down the road can be daunting.

"The best reaction was (when a student said), 'We could do 200 different things here,'" Dunn said. "The biggest challenge is being able to put their focus on one thing and not be overwhelmed."

Each team had to create a presentation of their plans, as well as a tri-fold brochure and a 3-D model, he said. Winners will be announced at the end of next week's competition and recognized during a May 7 city council meeting.

Ideas presented by the students could be taken into consideration by the special committee, which is expected to make a recommendation next fall on how the Greene Farm barn could be used, Wehrli said. The group also has been asked to identify partnerships and potential funding sources, and analyze development, operations and maintenance costs.

"It's a cool thing for these students to be able to see how they would fit into a community if they were in these professions," DiOrio said. "It's hands on. It's creative. It's a really unique opportunity for these kids that they have right here in their backyards."

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