JJC downtown campus still 2 years away
By Bob Okon email@example.com January 14, 2013 9:32PM
Updated: February 16, 2013 6:30AM
JOLIET — Joliet Junior College’s six-story downtown building will likely not open for another two years even though the ground-breaking ceremony happens next week.
Because of the still-iffy status of state funding for the project, the college will wait a year before deciding whether to turn to a “Plan B” funding strategy, JJC president Deb Daniels told the Joliet City Council on Monday.
Daniels gave a status report on the project in light of the ceremonial ground-breaking that will take place Jan. 22. Actual construction will not begin until late March or early April, Daniels said.
JJC officials decided a year ago to move forward with construction on the shell of the building while awaiting state funds to cover the interior construction. It’s a $50 million project, and JJC has been waiting on the state to appropriate $24 million for it.
“The building is being built in phases,” Daniels told the council in answer to a question on when it would open. “All that’s being built is the outside. ... If we don’t get an appropriations bill in the next year, we’ll have to make a decision on whether we will use our Plan B funding.”
Daniels noted that JJC is atop the list of a state capital fund that would provide the money. The college has been waiting for the money for at least two years.
The project could move faster if the state came through with the funds, Daniels said when interviewed later. But JJC now sees it as a two-phase project, with the outside being built in the first year and the inside during the second year, she said.
City officials are looking forward to the opening of the building, which would house JJC’s award-winning culinary arts program among other programs. Councilman Don Fisher told Daniels, “I know it’s been a little bit of a long process, but it’s well worth the wait.”
The JJC building not only would add a modern building downtown, it’s also expected to add vitality by bringing several hundred people a day into the area. JJC has some programs downtown now, including the Renaissance Center banquet facility.
Daniels said the Renaissance Center would remain intact “because it’s an historic building.” But some changes were planned for the interior to upgrade the kitchen and make other improvements, she said.
JJC tore down the old White Store building two years ago to make room for the downtown campus. At one point, construction was to start last summer, but it was later pushed back to the end of 2012.