In the 18 months since former Gov. Pat Quinn came to the College of Lake County's Lakeshore Campus to announce $48 million in state funding for an expansion project, CLC and Waukegan officials have debated exactly what the Sheridan Road improvement should look like.
The college envisioned a low-rise building that would stretch north from Madison Avenue on the site of the former News-Sun tower, but Mayor Wayne Motley said the city planned something bigger.
"The initial request was three stories, and we said, 'No.' Then they came back with (six) stories, and we said, 'Absolutely perfect,'" Motley said Monday, prior to the City Council awarding the first set of permits for the project.
Motley told the council that "there was a point in our discussions where it was very adversarial," though CLC's David Agazzi, vice president for Administrative Affairs, applied a softer take.
"I'd like to call them 'spirited discussions,'" Agazzi said with a smile as he unveiled the first architectural renderings of proposed improvements that will not only include a six-story tower on the southwest corner of Sheridan and Madison but renovations of existing CLC facilities on Genesee Street.
Eventually, Agazzi added, the two sides combined their own master plans "to create something that I think is not only going to be a huge asset to the College of Lake County, but is going to be, we hope, a great addition to downtown Waukegan."
According to Agazzi, 30 percent of CLC students — about 9,000 — live within five miles of downtown Waukegan, but only 1 percent utilize the Lakeshore Campus. He said that one reason is because the Genesee Street facilities have primarily offered adult-education classes, while the expansion is being designed to focus on increasing general-education offerings.
"We do anticipate that this will become a more popular campus," Agazzi said. "It will take a little time to build to that enrollment, but the key to that is making this a full-service campus."
The overall project is being funded with $36 million in Illinois Jobs Now! funds, with the remainder covered by a CLC bond issue. Motley said he plans to meet with Gov. Bruce Rauner in Springfield to ensure state support of the project remains on track.
Ted Haug from the Waukegan office of Legat Architects told the council that smaller elements in the proposed design include a 1,400-square-foot student lounge in a renovated 111 N. Genesee building and a pedestrian mall from Genesee to Sheridan that "invites you into the campus and gives you a sense of place."
Designs also show a 2,000-square-foot snack bar along the mall and darkened glass being taken out of a current pedestrian overpass across the Madison corridor and replaced with clear glass to open up views toward the lake.
But the project's centerpiece is the tower on the former site of Madison restaurant. While the News-Sun property across the street had been eyed for the expansion, officials now say that land is being eyed for unspecified future development.
Renderings for the tower show it being directly linked to an existing parking garage to the south, and its features include a 7,100-square-foot enrollment center/student-services office on a first floor that also will include spaces for career services, counseling and financial aid.
The upper floors include 12 classrooms and a 7,100-square-foot library that Haug said will "explode into a two-story space" on its east end, providing what he called "spectacular views out toward the lake." The same concept is applied to the sixth floor, which will feature three classrooms that can be opened into a single community room with glass walls facing in three directions. The top floor also will feature a terrace open to the south and east.
According to a timeline sketched out by Agazzi, the plans will go before a state review panel later this month, starting an eight-month process of design development. The contractor-bidding process could start in spring 2016 with a goal of breaking ground that autumn. If all goes as planned, the project would be complete in the spring of 2019, about a year later than originally envisioned.
The council voted unanimously to approve a set of ordinances allowing "colleges and universities" as a conditional use in the targeted properties, and 8th Ward Ald. William Valko was among those touting the project as a potential boon for the city.
"We've been waiting so long for something like this," Valko said. "I know those downtown restaurants are just waiting for those kids to come on down."