At the end of August, Illinois Central College and the Illinois Department of Central Management Services (CMS) announced an agreement that allowed ICC to purchase the Zeller facility for $5.5 million. The announcement of the sale came exactly three years to the day after State Rep. David Leitch suggested ICC take over the closed facility at a local press conference.
By the end of the year, Rep. Leitch had helped ICC enter into a 20-year lease, in which ICC paid for the annual operating costs of the facility, repairs, maintenance, and upkeep of the grounds. While the media touted the symbolic $1 a year rent, ICC was actually paying about $1.5 million each year in operating costs and putting thousands and thousands of dollars into renovations and repair.
In December 2002, 96 students came to the ICC North campus for mini-mester classes. Since that time, both the number of classes and students attending those classes continued to grow. For the last academic year, more than 3,700 students have taken advantage of the convenient location.
Over the last three years, ICC has worked hard to improve the campus. Roofs on several buildings were replaced. Life safety issues were addressed. Rooms were remodeled and renovated to accommodate educational needs. High-speed Internet connections were added. ICC did all this as a tenant of the state, knowing in 20 years the lease could end but realizing the money spent was an investment in the educational equity of the community ICC serves.
The purchase agreement, which State Sen. George Shadid helped initiate, was happy news for Illinois Central College and for the central Illinois community. Now, ICC has the opportunity to look into the future beyond 20 years and continue to do the exciting work started in December 2002. Currently, ICC North:
• Provides a permanent home for the Culinary Arts program at ICC, which has reached record enrollment since its move to the North site.
• Is home to ICC’s Therapeutic Massage program and clinic. The community responded warmly to the opening of the clinic by filling all available appointments within weeks.
• Offers classes for high school students from District 150, as well as from other districts.
• Houses the Human Services program, as well as labs for health careers programs, which educate needed health and human services workers about our community.
• Hosts the Upward Bound program, which helps minority and at-risk high school students prepare for college.
• Offers a full associate degree, which means students can complete their associate degree by taking all their classes at the campus.
• Hosts “Community Tuesdays,” a lecture and discussion forum on current topics of interest. More than 100 people attended the inaugural session.
• Headquarters the Childcare Connection, a resource for child care providers and parents.
• Provides a permanent location for non-credit recreational, craft, and special interest classes for the community.
This list only captures a portion of what’s happening at North. Now that the future of the site is secure, even more is planned. For example, a Police Training Center currently is under development.
The purchase of the property means ICC can continue to develop needed programs with confidence. Reflecting on Rep. Leitch’s comments from three years ago, it’s exciting to know ICC is finally home on the North campus. IBI