College health sciences building coming near downtown Naperville
A site east of campus fell through, so North Central College now plans to construct a new facility to house graduate health sciences between one of its dorms and a downtown Naperville strip mall.
The college plans to begin site work soon toward construction of a 40,000-square-foot hall to house physician assistant and physical therapy programs as well as a manufacturing processes lab for engineering students.
Located on Chicago Avenue west of Patterson Hall and east of the River Square shopping center, the building is expected to be largely complete by the end of this year for use by engineering students in spring 2021, President Troy Hammond said.
The space will help the college train students for "highly sought-after health care professions," Hammond said.
"This is a very important project that shows the continued progress and strength of North Central College, which of course shows the strength of Naperville," he said.
The college aims to begin its physician assistant program with 30 graduate-level students in fall 2021, while the physical therapy program is targeted to launch with 48 graduate-level students in fall 2023.
The building will be the "closest to downtown you can imagine on our property," Hammond said, after the college last summer dropped a purchase agreement to buy a site two blocks east of campus now owned by the Little Friends disability services agency and school.
The college stepped back from buying the site at Little Friends' request after the agency determined it could be difficult to gain a zoning change and city permission to demolish a large house on the property, referred to as the Kroehler mansion, because it once housed Naperville furniture magnate and two-time Mayor Peter Kroehler.
The city council since has given Little Friends permission to tear down the mansion, along with the rest of the buildings on the site, as the agency aims to sell the land for maximum value to facilitate a move to a site better suited for modern education. The city also has offered up to $562,000 as an incentive if Little Friends sells the land to a buyer who will maintain the mansion.
Little Friends officials said they are still reviewing options for the site.
Once North Central knew the Little Friends site, which the college owned from 1945 to 1989 and used as dorms, would not be available, officials began looking at campus property to find a site for the health sciences building.
Hammond said the site on Chicago Avenue is the best fit because it already has college and university district zoning, allowing the four-story facility to be built without any variances. From Chicago Avenue, the building will appear three stories tall because the site slopes down as it heads south.
The college has been sharing plans, including preliminary renderings, with nearby residents in the East Central Homeowners Association during two neighbor meetings. Association President Tim Messer said residents appreciate the communication, the views of initial concept drawings of the building and the college's efforts to answer questions about how walking paths, trees and parking will be affected.
"It certainly is a large structure on a relatively small parcel ... the neighborhood residents have some concerns about the loss of green space," Messer said. "But the early renderings make it appear that it will be a positive addition to the neighborhood and to the downtown area."
Most of the construction is scheduled to take place in May, after this academic year ends, so it will be "minimally disruptive to parking," said Jim Godo, assistant vice president for external affairs.
The college would not specify the building's total cost, but said it will be funded in part by a $10 million anonymous donation that came in last year, which was the top fundraising year since the school was established in 1861.