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Beloit College is ranked among the top 50 US colleges. This will be the first campus building that engages with the city and the river. Exciting times for Beloit!!!!

Beloit College announces major building effort

(Published Tuesday, April 19, 2005 10:46:38 AM CDT)

By Frank Schultz
Gazette Staff

BELOIT-Beloit College plans to invest tens of millions of dollars in its buildings and grounds in the next five years.

The goal is to make the 159-year-old college feel more open to the community while closing some city streets that traverse the campus, said John Nicholas, vice president for administration and treasurer.

The streets tend to isolate different parts of the campus, so making them pedestrian-only will help unite the campus, according to the campus' master plan.

The centerpiece for the transformation is a new $30 million science building that would sit in the middle of what is now Emerson Street.

This artist’s rendering shows a proposed 102,000-square-foot, $30 million science building that Beloit College hopes to locate on Emerson Street in Beloit. The structure is the centerpiece of an effort by the 159-year-old college to make the campus feel more open to the community, college officials say.
Submitted illustration


Fund-raising has been going on behind the scenes but will go public as soon as next fall, Nicholas said. If money can be raised fast enough, construction of the science building could start in spring 2006 and be completed for fall 2007, Nicholas said.

In any case, the building and traffic changes are targeted for completion in the next five years. The last building constructed on campus was the Neese Theatre, in 1972.

Beloit College has been working on a master plan for the next 25 years at the same time it's been dealing with record enrollments and a decision about how big a school it wants to become.

The college has kept the city updated on its plans, but Nicholas and other college officials made a formal presentation to the Beloit City Council in a study session Monday night.

Speaking before the meeting, city council President Terrence Monahan said city officials look favorably on the plans.

While there may be disagreement on details from time to time, "general speaking, what's good for the college is good for the city," Monahan said.

Monahan said the improvements at the college would complement the city's ongoing downtown redevelopment efforts.

City Administrator Larry Arft said the city is "very excited."

"This is a major investment in the community, and we hope the college will continue to grow and prosper," Arft said.

Nicholas said the only help the college will need from the city is permission to vacate several streets, which the city now owns.

The campus sits on a hill overlooking the Rock River in the heart of Beloit, but because of the river's industrial past, only the college's back doors opened to the river, Nicholas said.

Nicholas said the science center will be the first building on campus to face the river.

When the 102,000-square-foot science center is completed, the existing science building-Chamberlin Hall-will be demolished.

Nicholas called 92,000-square foot Chamberlin an ugly, worn-out building from the 1960s that can't provide the kind of science facilities needed for the 21st century.

Once the science building project starts, officials can begin to change the way people get around the campus. Major changes are in store for parking, driving and walking.

Nicholas said the campus is in many ways isolated from the community that surrounds it.

"Many people don't understand us," he said. "They think we're this elite, rich place that really doesn't interact with the community."

Not true, Nicholas said, noting the college's many cultural activities that are free to the public and the fact that 88 percent of students receive financial aid.

Nicholas said he has been working since 1995, when he arrived on campus, to make it a more visible part of the community. He wants students to get "out of the bubble" and interact with Beloit's downtown.

Nicholas has pushed for changes that included refurbishing the Victorian-era homes the college owns in its near-east side neighborhood, the opening of the college bookstore in downtown Beloit in 2001, and the opening of the Center for Excellence in Liberal Education and Business, also downtown, last fall.

Now, plans to change pedestrian and vehicle traffic will serve similar purposes, Nicholas said.

Plans call for the closure of College Street, which cuts into the heart of the campus. College Street would still be accessible to emergency vehicles, but it would be turned into a walking promenade.

The promenade would feature "pedestrian circles" and other landscaping features that would signal entrance to the campus.

Raised "pedestrian tables" and other changes would slow auto traffic. Walkways, landscaping and lighting also would be improved.

Parking is now a "nightmare," with many students having to move their cars from one side of the street to the other each day, Nicholas said. Plans would improve the situation and create more parking spaces, some of them behind the college-owned homes in the neighborhood.

The pedestrian plan would cost $3.5 million and could be completed in a summer, once the money is available, Nicholas said.

Nicholas said neighbors have been kept apprised of the plans, and objections have been minimal.

"We have to be a good neighbor," he said.
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