Joliet celebrates construction of new JJC campus downtown
By bob okon email@example.com January 22, 2013 6:36PM
Joliet Junior College board members, from left, Susan Klen, and Jeff May, break ground for the new JJC downtown expansion with president, Dr. Debra Daniels, and other board members, Andy Mihelich and Bob Wunderlich at the Renaissance Center in Joliet, IL on Tuesday January 22, 2013. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 24, 2013 6:27AM
JOLIET — Joliet Junior College offered a glimpse into the future of its downtown campus Tuesday in a unique groundbreaking ceremony held indoors.
Construction on the six-story JJC downtown building actually will not start until March. But JJC officials dug into chocolate cake in a sort of cake-breaking ceremony held indoors to mark the pending construction.
“Today, we are going to invest $58 million in a state of the art facility in downtown Joliet,” JJC board Vice Chairman Jeff May said, as he reflected on the college’s 112 year history in the city. “We are going to bring hundreds of students to downtown Joliet.”
The students will come in two to three years, depending on when the building is finished.
But the near arrival of construction, almost a year after the downtown site was cleared for the building, was celebrated by both JJC and city officials.
Mayor Thomas Giarrante noted that the JJC building will be going up on the north end of downtown at the same time that the city begins construction of a new transportation center on the south end.
“This is going to go a long way in getting us in the right direction,” Giarrante said, noting the place the two projects can have in revitalizing downtown.
Both projects will transform the appearance of downtown Joliet.
The city is adding a new bus station, train station, and modern parking deck, using beacon lights in towers to draw attention to what is being called Joliet Gateway Center.
JJC is creating a modern building, using glass and light in ways not seen downtown now.
The building design includes a two-story lobby with glass exterior and a “lab restaurant” run by JJC’s award-winning culinary arts program.
Architect Dominick Demonica of Demonica Kemper Architects, which designed the building, noted people on the street will be able to see student activity in the building, especially when it’s lit up at night, and students inside will have gathering areas with large windows on the upper floors.
“They can sit and look out and actually overlook the city,” Demonica said. “They’ll feel they’re part of the city.”
Mortenson Construction has a $30 million contract to build the exterior of the building, which is expected to take a year. Another $2 million will be spent on infrastructure improvements at the college’s Renaissance Center next door. Meanwhile, JJC hopes to get $25.5 million in state funding to complete the interior.
The uncertain nature of the state money has contributed to delays in the project. But JJC President Debra Daniels said the college has money saved to finish the building if the state money does not come through. Students will be in the building in two to three years, she said.