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03.10.2014
Higher Ed
Chicago's community college system breaks ground on major Malcolm X College expansion plans.
The Malcolm X College is set to expand its campus between the United Center and the Eisenhower Expressway.
Courtesy Moody Nolan

Construction began in late fall on the new Malcolm X College campus by Cannon Design and Moody Nolan, the nation’s largest African American–owned architecture firm. More than ten percent of the total jobs created by the project have been reserved for neighborhood residents, which is greater than the 7.5 percent requirement for most construction sites. Unemployment is high in Chicago, especially in the vicinity of the $251 million West Side community college. Community leaders said that the local hires touted in the city’s press release signaled a move in the right direction, but also pointed out that more should be done to alleviate poverty and unemployment in Chicago neighborhoods.

The 700,000-square-foot building, which broke ground last month, is part of an effort by the college to boost its science programs—the new School of Health Sciences includes a teaching hospital and mortuary intended to simulate real world conditions for students hoping to graduate with employable skills.

 

“The new Malcolm X College is going to serve as a model moving forward to other, I think, not just community colleges, but the higher education community at large,” said Renauld Mitchell, director of Moody Nolan’s Chicago operations. In addition to its vocational focus, the college is one of the first of its kind to use synthetic cadavers (in addition to human specimens) for medical education.

Stacking several disciplines in a “health sciences tower,” Mitchell said, the design concentrates much of the academic programming in an eight-story mass. “As you go through the academic program itself you’re actually moving from zone to zone within the building,” he said. “It’s a psychological reinforcement of the idea that the focus is the health sciences’ professional studios.”

 

The tower’s bottom floors contain classroom space, with mortuary sciences and nursing labs on top. A longer volume and its glass expanse fill out the site, while a striated pattern of metal panels adds some rhythm to the facade. “The look is one that at the end of it all the skin will almost take on a chameleon like quality where it may read in several tones or colors,” said Mitchell.

Employing several green roofs, one of which can be used as a quasi-instructional space, and rainwater harvesting systems, the project is targeting LEED Gold certification. To keep pace with projected growth in enrollment, construction plans call for more than 1,200 new parking spaces.

 

Mitchell, who took electives at Harold Washington and Richard Daley Colleges while completing an architecture degree, said the mission of serving the City College system’s largely minority audience resonates with his firm.

The city’s estimate of 950 construction jobs includes several projects across a five-year, $524 million capital plan to upgrade Harold Washington, Daley, Olive-Harvey, Wright, and Truman Colleges. Money for that plan will come from a mix that includes $8 million in tax-increment financing, as well as bonds, capital reserves, and operating funds.

Beyond immediate construction jobs, the city estimates Illinois will create 25,000 healthcare jobs over the next decade. Those are positions graduates of Malcolm X College may be more qualified for thanks, in part, to its new campus, said Alderman Walter Burnett at the October groundbreaking. The new campus is more than “just a school where a person gets a college degree,” he said. “It’s also a place where a person gets a career, gets a trade, gets a job after they’re done.”

Chris Bentley