CLC receives $2 million donation for planned Urban Farm in downtown Waukegan
The College of Lake County this week accepted a $2 million grant from an anonymous benefactor, and the money will go toward the creation of a $9 million Urban Farm project at the Lakeshore campus in Waukegan.
While details for the Urban Farm are still being worked out, college officials say when completed the program will help educate students at the Waukegan campus and also help address the local food desert in the area. They hope to fund the remainder of the project with donations as well.
The growing space for the farm will be established on open land near West Madison Street and North Sheridan Road. The land is currently being used as a construction staging area for the nearby $48 million student center project, which got underway in earnest earlier this year.
Officials said the work on the growing space will likely begin in the first quarter of 2023.
The board accepted the $2 million donation -- believed to be the largest such gift in the college's history -- at a Tuesday night meeting. At the meeting, CLC President Lori Suddick gave credit to Kurt Peterson, executive director of the College of Lake County Foundation, for helping facilitate the donation. Suddick said Peterson, who has held that job for about three years, partnered with foundations that hadn't previously worked with the college.
"It was really through his shepherding and building out that relationship that's built trust and credibility," Suddick said.
Reached by phone Thursday, Peterson credited the generous donors who live in Lake County and want to use their money to improve people's lives.
Peterson said he believes the donation was the first seven-figure grant the college foundation has received that didn't come from a government source.
He conceded there were a number of details to be sorted out regarding the Urban Farm.
"There's that old analogy that you are building the plane while you fly it," Peterson said. "Well, we're just now taxiing to take off."
Peterson said the college will partner with the Chicago Botanic Garden. The college will own and manage the farm; the Botanic Garden will serve as the operator by growing food and developing community partnerships.
The Urban Farm project will require indoor facilities as well. Peterson said three downtown Waukegan buildings on Madison Street, including the long-abandoned Illinois Bell Telephone building at 122 W. Madison St., will be renovated and used for the program. Peterson said the buildings will likely contain a classroom, an industrial kitchen, offices and other spaces.
"Our hope is that the Urban Farm becomes a gathering place for multiple academic and local programs," Peterson said.
Peterson said the foundation is in the process of securing other donations for the project. The $2 million donor wishes to remain anonymous.
According to college documents, the first $1 million will be delivered to the college in the next 45 days, and the rest of the donation will arrive by the end of the year.