North Central College and Naper Settlement are each moving forward with plans for projects in and around Naperville's downtown.
The city's Downtown Advisory Commission recently received updates from the liberal arts school and living history museum on the status of the projects that include a science center, park and educational children's play area.
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420 South Washington Street, Naperville, IL 60565, USA
South Loomis Street & East Van Buren Avenue, Naperville, IL 60540, USA
523 South Webster Street, Naperville, IL 60540, USA
North Central College is working on designs for its new science center to replace the Kroehler Science Center that dates back to 1970.
The school has been gathering input from its faculty, experts and community members as it creates plans for the building that will be constructed south of Van Buren Avenue between Loomis and Brainard streets. Officials have said the facility could be as large as 125,000 square feet and cost about $60 million.
Jim Godo, assistant vice president for external affairs, said it will be "a transformative facility."
"We feel like we have an obligation to make sure that we equip students who come to our campus with the best quality of education across the range and … (science technology, engineering and math) education is at the forefront of that," Godo said.
Councilman Joe McElroy, who sits on the Downtown Advisory Commission, said there have been some concerns from nearby residents about the building facing inward.
"I …think it's important the building complement and fit in with neighborhood," he said.
Godo said the college has been meeting with neighbors and will continue to do so.
"We're not going to turn our backs on the neighborhood," he said. "There will certainly be entryways to the building on the street side as well."
The college still needs to raise funds to pay for the new facility, which it hopes to open in 2017.
Just half a mile from the science center, North Central College is also creating a park out of a property long known around town as an eyesore.
The college purchased 430 S. Washington St. and demolished the dilapidated building there just over a year ago. It is now making plans for a park that will include college signage and tributes to the school's cross country and academic traditions.
"It's a very simple, open design," Godo said.
The city also will be taking the opportunity make improvements to the adjacent Riverwalk by connecting a lower walkway to Washington Street and the Moser Bridge.
Downtown Advisory Commission Chairman Steve Rubin complimented the project, saying he believes it can be "a step forward in line with our efforts to connect the downtown with all the great cultural, and educational opportunities around us – the Heritage Society, the schools, the carillon, the college, the children's museum."
Officials are working with DuPage County to obtain the necessary permits, but do not expect work to begin until next year.
Visitors won't have to wait quite as long for Naper Settlement's newest feature, The Rita (Fredenhagen) and John Harvard Early Learning Playscape.
"What we're trying to do is create an environment for children ages 2 to 7 to introduce them to history, both the early settlement period, the natural environment that Illinois had when settlers and Native Americans lived here and the interactions between those two cultures," said Debbie Grinnell, vice president of museum services.
The playscape will include climbing structures, a sensory garden, splash pad, trading post and picnic tables and could open in July.