CRYSTAL LAKE – McHenry County College leaders are starting anew on expansion plans and are close to selecting an architectural firm to lead the way.
After years of disagreements and delays stemming from a 40-year master plan that included aggressive growth projections, trustees are down to two architects to develop a plan to re-purpose and expand facilities with a realistic growth projection.
Three architects made presentations to the board of trustees, but Wight & Company was quickly ruled out after trustees expressed concern that no matter what the firm could bring to the table, it would be criticized by the community because of the 40-year master plan the firm had developed previously.
Demonica Kemper Architects was identified as the early leader as trustees were drawn to the fact most of the team was local. The firm already had spent time walking the halls and gathering data for ways to re-purpose existing space as well as expand.
The firm’s presentation estimated that there would be 5,140 additional students by 2040. Presenters also showed examples of expansion projects at Rock Valley College and Kishwaukee College where the firm came in at roughly $1 million under budget.
“There would not be a lot of reinventing the wheel,” trustee Mary Miller said of selecting the firm that feature people familiar with the college. “It’s going to be easier to sell [to constituents] when we actually have people who live in the county.”
Some trustees preferred Holabird & Root who gave some creative initial ideas including renovating the auditorium to work as a classroom and event space.
Trustee Chris Jenner, who also served on the committee that narrowed the finalists to three, said he was most impressed Holabird & Root during the vetting process and believed they could do the most with the least.
“One thing that impressed me is they were far more concerned with the space we have and how it’s used as opposed to how it looks on the outside,” Jenner said.
One trustee who will not be part of the process is Tom Wilbeck who was forced to resign after moving out of the college’s district and into the Harper College boundaries. Wilbeck had been vocal about limiting the scope of any expansion and repurposing existing space as much as possible.
The board will have 60 days to appoint someone to finish Wilbeck’s term. The college is expected to advertise the position to the public and ask for resumes from those interested.
“ It really hurts but I must resign,” Wilbeck said. “It has been my pleasure and honor ... working with this board of trustees. The college is a phenomenal institution.”