Ground broken for new site

By Eric Krol

After about a year of controversy, NIU broke ground Thursday on the Hoffman Estates consolidation project.

With a ceremonial swing of the shovel by NIU President John La Tourette, ground was broken on the $6.2 million Hoffman Estates center, which will consolidate classes offered at more than 30 off-campus sites along what La Tourette dubbed “the golden corridor,” which is the growing corporate area in the northwest suburbs.

La Tourette, first among the six speakers, said, “In addition to high quality programming, we want to have a state-of-the-art, first-rate, educational facility to again emphasize the point that people who cannot reach our campus … can have access to the best that can be offered in Illinois in higher education.”

Hoffman Estates Mayor Michael O’Malley said he is proud NIU selected the village and added that consolidating the classroom sites “gives greater efficiency of taxpayer and tuition dollars.”

David Garrison, senior manager for special projects at Sears and Roebuck, thanked NIU and Hoffman Estates and their support staffs for the hard work on the project. Sears donated land for the project valued at $1.2 million.

Board of Regents Chancellor Roderick Groves and Regents Chairman Brewster Parker also were present at the ceremony.

Groves said in its largest sense, public service is the basic purpose of higher education. “Certainly no project captures that idea of public service more poignantly than this NIU Hoffman Estates center,” Groves said.

Rep. Terry Parke, R-Hoffman Estates, spoke on behalf of the state legislators who spearheaded the approval process.

“The future of American business lies in the classroom,” Parke said.

La Tourette said he expects the facility will open next September. The center will offer mainly graduate level classes such as a master’s of business administration program.

The center is being developed for NIU, which will essentially lease the center for a 25-year period and then assume ownership.

The money to run the center will come from student class fees, corporate donations and money that is currently spent on renting off-campus classrooms in the northwest suburban area.

The project had come under fire from Roosevelt University, a private institution with a branch campus in the area. Roosevelt felt NIU would be duplicating courses already offered in the area.