By Megann Horstead | For The Bugle
Joliet Junior College officials and members of the community celebrated the completion of the newly constructed City Center Campus and Renaissance Center on April 11.
The grand opening ceremony featured remarks by a number of guests, including JJC president Dr. Judy Mitchell, board chairman Bob Wunderlich, alumna Rosie Cowell, Demonica Kemper Architects principal Dominick Demonica and Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk. The building first opened for classes in January.
“The opening of this facility has been a long time coming,” Wunderlich said. “I’ve been a trustee at the college for over 40 years, and I’ve seen JJC [bloom] as the institution it is today—a college of state of the art facilities, innovation of academics, and a key resource for generations of traditional students, non-traditional students, local businesses, and organizations.”
This six-story, 96,000-square-foot facility, designed by Demonica Kemper Architects, intends to demonstrate a contemporary expression of the vitality this development brings to the downtown community.
Ten years ago, JJC officials embarked on its master plan campaign to enhance its facilities and educational experience. The development of the City Center Campus and Renaissance Center is what resulted.
“I am pleased to see our vision is realized,” Wunderlich said. “We are proud to invest in downtown Joliet.”
The college’s history with the City of Joliet and the downtown area dates back to 1901, at which point its first campus was set up in the current location for Joliet Central High School. When JJC separated from the high school district and moved to its current location on Houbolt Road in 1967, efforts were devised years later to return to the downtown with the purchase of the renaissance center and adjoining hotel.
The City Center Campus and Renaissance Center hosts a number of special events and currently houses programs for adult education and literacy, workforce development and culinary arts.
“We are excited to continue these services, in addition to expanding our offerings [due] to increased space we now have,” Mitchell said.
O’Dekirk said it’s important to see the college’s leadership not only making a commitment to downtown Joliet but also keeping it.
“As mayor the last two years, I’ve had numerous ribbon cuttings and announcements—a lot of projects happening in Joliet—but we recognize this is a big one,” he said. “It’s a big one for the city, it’s a big one for downtown.”
Cowell, a class of 2015 graduate of the culinary arts program, took a moment to revel in the milestone her alma mater has reached. She said as a student, she saw JJC as a “sanctuary” for faculty and students.
“Relationships flourished through the fellowship of shared meals at the end of a long… day and through the experience of extracurricular events,” Cowell recalled. “From friendly greetings in the halls to deep and meaningful advising counseling sessions, professors dedicated their time to students. This deep care for faculty resulted in very dedicated students who came to school ready to learn and grow. It is my prayer that JJC would continue to attract those same students and faculty, who desire to thrive in all aspects of life, to strive for excellence, dedication, and passion.”
Cowell wants people to know that the culture at JJC is one that thrives—no matter if the experience was held in the J Building or in the new City Center Campus.
“Even with only 20 workers outfitted [with] equipment in crammed spaces, I experienced one of the greatest culinary educations this nation has to offer,” she said. “I can only imagine how exponential the growth will be for students, here, at the new City Center Campus.”
Mitchell gave credit to constituents within the district, along with supporters at the city, county and state levels for believing in the college and investment in the education of the community.
“We are proud to preserve this space’s rich history so that it may continue to serve our students and our great city,” she said.