JOLIET – Despite the state’s share of the $58 million capital project in limbo, interior work has begun on Joliet Junior College’s planned City Center Campus building in downtown Joliet.
Completion was initially planned for spring, but the project is now slated for a January 2017 opening. Although behind schedule, college officials are determined to complete the project with the use of funding previously earmarked for other capital projects during Springfield’s budget standoff.
Judy Mitchell, vice president for administrative services at JJC, said college officials are “hopeful” the college will receive the promised state funding “once a budget is approved.”
“Everyone is excited. It’s been a long time waiting,” Mitchell said. “January  will be here before we know it.”
Once compete, the City Center Campus will house the college’s adult education and literacy department, workforce development and the college’s renowned culinary arts program. The exterior of the six-story, 96,000-square-foot building was completed last year.
All week, construction workers with Wood Dale-based George Sollitt Construction were on-site working mainly on underground plumbing and electrical work, along with metal stud framing. By November, contractors will begin on the building’s HVAC system and duct work.
JJC officials learned earlier this year from Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration that the promised $10 million was under review, along with other community college projects statewide.
The state is expected to chip in $25.5 million overall. Whether JJC receives the remaining $15.5 million is dependent on state lawmakers’ passage of a new capital bill, Mitchell said.
Mitchell added that the City Center Campus has been on the Illinois Community College Board’s project funding list for more than a decade, and remains the No. 1 project on the list.
By June, cabinetry and trim work will begin. Office and classroom furniture will move in by the end of 2016. The goal is to have JJC’s Renaissance Center and the City Center Campus completed at the same time.
JJC Culinary Arts Chair Mike McGreal said he and his students are looking forward to the building’s completion, when the culinary arts department – which is now working with equipment dating back to the late 1960s – will have a new space and state-of-the-art kitchen environment. A restaurant affiliated with the culinary program also is in the works.
Learning the latest kitchen technologies is as important as learning recipes, McGreal said. With several national awards under its belt, faculty members within the JJC’s culinary arts program are eager to have a new space that reflects students’ successes.
“It’s a program that’s very recognized with state-of-the-art teaching and state-of-the-art learning and faculty that are at the top of their game. And now we’ll finally have a program that matches up to that reputation,” McGreal said.
With plans for a bake shop and student-inspired restaurant available to the public, Mitchell said the college hopes to attract more people to the downtown area.
“This building has been much needed for years. The hope is to help with the downtown area for the city. Our students are very excited,” Mitchell said.