DECATUR – Richland Community College started the new year with a bang as it broke ground last week on a new 4,000-square-foot extension center in Clinton, and on Tuesday, as BLDD Architects presented Richland’s board of trustees with a draft of the college’s campus facilities master plan, trustees and faculty learned there’s more growth in store for the college over the next several years.

“One of the more immediate projects for the college is the Workforce Development Institute,” Nate Elliott, director of the sustainability design group for BLDD, said as he presented a three-dimensional model of the facility.

The project will renovate 14,000 square feet of the existing campus, while also adding a new 45,000-square-foot building, said Greg Florian, Richland’s vice president of finance.

“The new building (on the east end of the campus) will house diesel, automotive technology, auto body, building trades and other skills trades programs, plus a new wellness and fitness center for students,” he said. “Plus, there will be a new restaurant built on to the Shilling Community Education Center near the Culinary Arts Institute, and renovation of 14,000 square feet of existing space for the Early Childhood Education program and new welding space.”

Florian said the college received 12 general contractor bids on the project Thursday, with the lowest bid of $13.8 million coming from Poettker Construction, a contractor in Breese, Ill.

“We’re hoping the board will discuss and approve the bid and are hoping for a March groundbreaking,” said Florian, adding that the project would likely take 16 months. “We’re shooting for the facilities to be available in Fall 2014.”

Florian said the project will be financed through bonds, which the board authorized last year.

“It’s a big project and we’re really excited about it,” he said. “I think we’ll have a great product when it’s done.”

The Student Success Center was another project Florian and BLDD discussed Tuesday night.

In early December, Gov. Pat Quinn announced that the state would release $3.5 million in capital funding for the success center and the college’s north wing addition, something Florian said Richland has been waiting on for about 13 years.

“We saw the need for the Student Success Center in 2000,” he said of the $4.7-million project that will consolidate all of the college’s student services into one area immediately inside the main entrance. “We’re getting $3.5 million of funding from the state, and the college’s share, which will probably come from the Richland Community College Board Foundation, will be $1.175 million.”

Richland President Gayle Saunders said the project could break ground in the summer.

Florian said he also is excited about repairing and renovating the south wing of the college.

“The Capital Development Board has scheduled bidding for Thursday afternoon” and a repair and renovation grant will allow for a number of projects, including flooring replacement and the repainting of walls, he said. “The work probably won’t begin until after this semester, but it will hopefully be done before the start of Fall 2013 classes.”

Randy West, BLDD’s principal director of higher education design, said with the number of immediate projects, in addition to long-term projects, such as a learning resource center and fine arts center, the future is looking bright for Richland.

“I think Richland is absolutely moving in a fantastic direction,” he said. “You’re leading the way in community colleges in Illinois, and you’re doing a fantastic job.”

Trustee Wayne Dunning agreed.

“Looking back about 20 years ago at our campus facility master plan, we’ve far exceeded our expectations,” he said. “President Saunders really took the ball Dr. (Charles) Novak gave her and exceeded the college’s vision.”|421-7963

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