JOLIET – It was a daily struggle for Alejandro Guzman to climb stairs to the cafeteria on the fourth floor at Joliet Central High School.
Now Guzman, high school senior and student council president, can look forward to the relocation of the cafeteria to a more accessible location at the new student center. The building will expand cafeteria seating from 350 to more than 500, offer more collaboration spaces and provide what school officials call a “21st century learning environment.”
On Monday, Guzman and several school officials expressed their excitement for the new building at a groundbreaking ceremony for the beginning of construction.
“It is a bittersweet moment knowing that the building will be awesome and also knowing that I will graduate before the building is complete,” he said.
Since last fall, school officials have been developing the student center in three phases. The $28 million construction project is being funded through bonds and slated to end in spring 2016.
The Infant Childcare Center was relocated out of the Little Theatre building to Collins Street and the Little Theatre itself was demolished in early February. Construction of the student center is expected to begin during the 2014 school year.
The architect of the project is Tom Roth of Wight and Co. At Monday’s ceremony, Roth said while the main focus of the project is to provide a modern learning environment, the historical integrity of the 112-year-old building will also be preserved. The galleria space will have the same limestone facade as the rest of the building.
“As architects, it was also our goal not only to be sensitive to the historic architecture of the buildings – the collegiate Gothic design – but also to celebrate its many design features throughout the addition,” Roth said.
Besides a new cafeteria, students can expect a bookstore, technology help desk counter, security entrance, collaboration spaces and a galleria connection that will be attached to the east side of the school.
The galleria will have natural lighting elements, a student lounge and more collaboration spaces with technology charging stations.
“It is our vision that this facility will not only be utilized by staff and students but the surrounding community as well,” said Jeff Pierson, board president for Joliet High School District 204.