The drive into the Elgin Community College campus from McLean Boulevard may look different for students once classes return from Zoom back onto campus. This is because ECC completed the process to purchase the vacant restaurant building, adjacent to the college archway once home to a Colonial Cafe restaurant.
The building has only been vacant since 2018, but ECC has been looking to buy open property surrounding the college for a longer time.
“This was part of a strategic plan since 2009 set by the college to buy adjacent properties to the college,” said Respicio Vazquez, the ECC in-house attorney.
This strategic plan is referred to as the Facilities Master Plan and has allowed for several expansions to the ECC campus.
A brief found on the ECC website notes that, with a budget of 178 million dollars, The Master Plan has allowed ECC to expand its Campus size by nearly 25% since its establishment and complete renovations all around campus to buildings A, B, D, G and M.
“ECC has experienced great growth in welding,” said Dr. Kim Wagner, vice president of business and finance of ECC, when referring to why the College found it prudent to buy the Colonial Cafe Property.
“Currently the College administration is looking at [the plots] potential for the ECC’s Integrated Manufacturing and workforce development programs,” Wagner said.
While the purchase may look as if it has the potential to provide opportunities and benefits to current and future ECC students, the project has had some delays.
Previously the plot was zoned for commercial uses by the city of Elgin, and before the college could purchase the plot, it had to be rezoned for non-commercial purposes.
“The city would get less in property tax if the college bought the building,” Vazquez said. As a result, the issue had to be brought up in the Elgin City Council where the measure was debated.
Eventually, on Aug. 26, 2020, the Elgin City Council passed on an 8-1 vote the measure allowing for the plot to be rezoned.
“The City was not getting tax revenue. The building was just sitting there,” Vazquez said.
While the property may have not been doing much to fill the City of Elgin’s coffers, the expectation is that the addition of the property will help shape what the college looks like as The Master Plan progresses.