With Room To GrowBy Michael Wamble Daily Herald Staff Writer
Originally Published in the Daily Herald
Margaret Berg spent months keeping an eye on the two three-story buildings in Lisle that soon will house National-Louis University's West Suburban campus.
Wednesday, though, was the first time Berg, the school's interim director for career services, actually stepped inside the new campus in the Corporetum complex at the intersection of Route 53 and Warrenville Road.
Berg said she was immediately impressed by "the openness, the size and the light in the room."
That's good news for university officials, who are only weeks away from shifting their campus from its aging confines in Wheaton to the 86,000-square-foot space they have signed a long-term lease for in Lisle. The school is still in the midst of a $7.5 million renovation project at the site.
On Jan. 3, roughly 2,500 students, faculty and administrators will move to the Lisle facility. National-Louis will become the third institution of higher learning in the village, joining Benedictine University and Northwood University.
National-Louis is a 119-year-old school that began developing multiple campuses in the early 1970s. Its flagship site is in Chicago's Loop, with others in Elgin, Evanston and Wheeling.
For the past 11 years, though, the university's West suburban campus has been squeezed into the former DuPage County courthouse in downtown Wheaton.
That facility, built in 1896 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, wasn't designed with modern technology in mind.
The new Lisle facility, housed in two connecting buildings at 850 and 950 Warrenville Road, should change that with its 42 classrooms and space for numerous amenities.
Bill Roberts, vice president for operational services, led a tour of the facility Wednesday. Dedication ceremonies are planned for Jan. 18.
Along with its accessibility from the Ronald Reagan Memorial Tollway, Roberts said, the new site's major advantage is that "it has been built for us."
On the first floor of the 850 Warrenville Road building, for example, the university will have room for "public space" that can be used by nonprofit groups and perhaps leased to local businesses.
Once construction is finished, the campus will have multiple computer labs, a student cafe, a library and classrooms that include built-in overhead LCD screens wired to DVD players and ready for laptop connections.
That's a stark contrast, faculty members said, from the technological challenges of the old campus.
Those on the tour also noticed some smaller improvements.
"No water dripping from the ceiling," whispered Tracy Rush, a prior learning counselor.
Though a little dusty, the slate blue and wasabi green walls were bone-dry.
The last day of classes in Wheaton will be Dec. 22. The former courthouse site eventually will be converted into condominiums and luxury townhouses.
Susan Thorne-Devin, who teaches at the university, was part of the committee that picked the Lisle location. She said the group steered away from buildings that felt like warehouses, opting for buildings with windows and a sense of coziness.
University enrollment is hovering near 1,900 at the West suburban campus, officials say, but they expect that number to jump in response to the new site. Winter enrollment in Lisle, they say, could be around 2,500.
Roberts said the Lisle buildings also provide "maximum flexibility" to add classrooms and anticipate the future needs of students. At least one classroom already has fully wired walls, Roberts said, to one day become a science lab.
The university is known for its graduate and undergraduate programs in education as well as in management and business and arts and sciences.