JOLIET, Ill. — Joliet Junior College held a groundbreaking ceremony last week for its new City Center Campus building at the Renaissance Center facility in downtown Joliet. More than 100 people were in attendance.
The college will start construction on the core and shell of the building this spring, which will be built just east of the Renaissance Center, at the intersection of Webster and Chicago streets.
The six-story, 96,000 square-foot building will include space for workforce development, GED/ESL training, adult education, and culinary arts, all programs that have a direct impact on improving employment opportunities for JJC students and community members.
“We could not do this without the support of our partners at the city, county and state levels — so we thank them for their belief in us and their investment in education,” said Board of Trustees Vice Chair Jeff May. "This is a project that we believe will not only increase access to education for many citizens in our district, but will also transform the landscape of downtown Joliet.”
May also expressed gratitude to the citizens within the district who supported the 2008 referendum.
“Funds from that referendum will go toward this project,” he said.
Dr. Debra Daniels, president of JJC, opened the ceremony recognizing several special guests and elected officials who were in attendance, including:
• Tom Giarrante, Mayor of Joliet
• Larry Walsh Sr., Will County Executive
• Herb Brooks, Will County Board speaker
• Margo McDermott, Will County Board member
• Denise Winfrey, Will County Board member
• John Gerl, Joliet City Councilman
• Terry Morris, Joliet City Councilman
• Jan Quillman, Joliet City Councilwoman
• Mike Turk, Joliet City Councilman
• Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, State Senator, 49th District
• Larry Walsh Jr., State Rep., 86th District
• Pat McGuire, State Sen., 43rd District
• Jim McFarland, Troy Township Trustee
Several members of the JJC Board of Trustees were also present, including Jeff May, Andrew Mihelich, Susan Marie Klen, Daniel O'Connell, Robert J. Wunderlich and Student Trustee Keith Bryant.
In addition to Dr. Daniels, Trustee Jeff May, Joliet Mayor Tom Giarrante and Greg Werner of Mortenson Construction — which is contracted to build the building’s exterior — spoke at the event.
Mayor Giarrante said that the college’s plans for improving the downtown campus and a new intermodal transportation facility that will be built in Joliet at the same time both are significant milestones in the revitalization of downtown Joliet.
Demonica Kemper Architects designed the structure that will include a two-story, light-filled, glass-enclosed lobby designed to welcome students and visitors to the facility, and also include a new restaurant located adjacent to Chicago Street for the public to access.
The design includes many sustainable technologies and is also targeting LEED Silver certification though the United States Green Building Council.
“The building will be a contemporary expression of the vitality that it will bring to the downtown community,” said Dr. Daniels.
In lieu of an outdoor groundbreaking ceremony, Dr. Daniels and JJC board members dug into a chocolate cake replica of the construction site made especially for the occasion by culinary arts professors and students.
“This campus serves a broad demographic through the programs currently housed here, like our Department of Adult Education and Literacy, Workforce Development, Culinary Arts, and of course, through the many special events hosted by the Renaissance Center,” said Dr. Daniels.” We are excited to continue to not only continue to offer these services, but to also now expand our offerings through the increased space and state-of-the-art facility this will be."
The building is expected to be completed and ready for students in two to three years.