BMO Harris Bank donates Mode Building to University of St. Francis
By Bob Okon firstname.lastname@example.org September 7, 2012 11:26AM
Chris McComish (left), executive vice president, retail banking, BMO Harris Bank, hands Michael Vinciguerra (right), University of St. Francis president, a key to the Mode Theatre building during a ceremony to commemorate the donation of the building for the expansion of the university's educational programs Friday, Sept. 7, 2012, outside 16-18 W. Van Buren St. in Joliet. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 10, 2012 6:21AM
JOLIET — The University of St. Francis will bring programs in logistics, hospitality, government and social services downtown after getting the gift of an 18,000-square-foot building.
BMO Harris Bank on Friday announced the donation of the Mode Building in the public square just outside the location at 16-18 W. Van Buren St.
“This to me is a wonderful example of what can happen in the partnership between the public sector, the private sector and the university,” USF President Michael Vinciguerra said at the ceremony.
USF plans to move its new Intermodal Institute, a program designed for classes in the logistics and warehousing industry, into the building. The university also plans to use the building as part of its programs in social justice and hospitality.
USF also is in the process of developing a master’s degree in public administration, and Vinciguerra said the Mode building could be useful in offering classes and seminars to government employees already working downtown.
Vinciguerra said the university would begin using the building gradually but is likely to start moving in during the fall.
The Mode building, located near Chicago Street, is so named because it once housed the Mode movie theater.
BMO Harris acquired the building through foreclosure and has held title since 2009.
Built in 1908, the three-story structure housed a 750-seat movie theater that operated until the mid-1980s, according to BMO Harris. The building was converted to office space in 1985.
BMO Harris’s own downtown bank building has been in Joliet nearly as long, having been built in 1909. It was built by First National Bank, which dated back to the mid-19th Century and was acquired by Harris Bank in 2001.
“Our company, though our name has changed and the color on our brand has change, has been in this town for well over 100 years,” said Chris McComish, executive vice president for retail banking with BMO Harris. “The downtown area is critically important to us as a bank.”
McComish said the bank believed USF’s use of the building would help foster economic development downtown.
The same point was made by Mayor Thomas Giarrante who said the new use of the Mode building “brings higher education to downtown Joliet. It’s something that I think will go a long way to bring people here — something we have been striving to do.”
USF already has its arts program in the Rialto Square Theatre office building located across Chicago Street from the Mode Building. Meanwhile, Joliet Junior College plans to build a high-rise building downtown for its culinary arts and hospitality classes.
USF’s movement of hospitality classes to the Mode Building could fit in well with JJC plans. USF has a capstone program that offers the final two years on a four-year degree for students who go through JJC’s two-year hospitality program.