DANVILLE – Danville Area Community College President Stephen Nacco envisions a day when the college’s property along East Main Street will look like a bona fide campus.
“You will come by here and you will say, ‘This is a college, not an abandoned shopping center,’” he said. “It’s going to be loud and proud: ‘This is DACC.’”
The U.S. Army Reserve Center at the corner of East Main and Home streets will soon be the latest addition to DACC’s campus. The purchase of the property last month will allow the college to relocate some of its programs and alleviate overcrowding in some of the buildings on campus, as well as offer local employers a space for customized training.
One of the programs that will relocate is the semitrailer tractor training program, which is currently housed at the former Steel Grip building near Garfield Park.
When the forklift training program moves to the Army Reserve Center by the end of the fall semester, it will free up space so that the semitrailer tractor program can occupy the lot in front of the Julius W. Hegeler II Advanced Technology Center.
“Six hundred square feet of the main parking lot will be used for tractor trailer training starting right now,” Nacco said.
The DACC branding on the tractor trailers “will be like billboards for DACC” that will be visible from East Main Street, he added.
A softball diamond will be created in the northwestern corner of campus, closest to East Main Street and the Veterans Affairs Illiana Health Care System, for DACC’s women’s softball team. Nacco said the field should be ready for use by fall of 2020.
“Women’s softball has been using Winter Park,” he said. “The city has been generous with us.”
The ball started rolling on the long-term campus improvement plan last month when the DACC Board of Trustees approved purchasing the Army Reserve Center at 2408 E. Main St. The property, which has been vacant since 2010, consists of two buildings on a 3.5-acre lot. The two-story administrative/office building was constructed in 1958 and is 22,878 square feet. An accompanying garage is one-story and 4,356 square feet.
“They accepted our offer, so now we’ll get to work and get it cleaned,” he said. “The negotiated sale is done. They acknowledged that we would pay $150,000 for it.”
Nacco said it will be a three-month process with the U.S. Army to finalize the sale, but in the meantime, the college has been issued a license allowing DACC employees to enter the premises.
The two floors of the main building consist mainly of long hallways with individual rooms.
“Some are classrooms; some are offices,” he said. “There are about 20 classrooms we can use.”
The property was maintained while it sat idle for nine years, but to fully restore and remodel the facility for the college’s purposes will cost between $400,000 and $500,000, which includes making the restrooms and second floor accessibility ADA compliant and removing some asbestos and lead paint, Nacco said.
Those areas that already have had asbestos removed are ready for immediate use.
“The drill room is an open area that doesn’t require any remediation,” he said.
The drill room at the rear of the main building has a large bay door that opens up onto the back lot. Forklift training, which is a corporate education program, will take place there before the end of the fall semester.
“Forklift training is going to start immediately, as soon as we throw away this broken furniture,” Nacco said, pointing to a pile of discarded furniture that was left behind when the facility closed.
A few of DACC’s athletic programs also could use the drill room for practice.
“The college revamped its weight room, but there’s competition for gym time,” he said. “This is an alternate site for the golf, basketball and baseball teams when it’s not being used for forklift training.”
Across the lot from the main building is an accompanying garage that will allow DACC’s corporate education division to offer local businesses a place to train their workers.
“It will allow us to focus on customized training instead of general career tech education, and it will give local employers the space to do onsite training,” Nacco said.
“This space will be used for corporate training, such as stock handlers, forklift drivers, movement of machines and robotics,” he said. “Machinist aptitude tests would be held here, and HVAC training would be here, too.”
Now that a casino and resort will be developed south of Interstate 74 at Lynch Road, Nacco also envisions some of the classrooms at the Army Reserve Center being used for casino employee training programs, similar to ones at Illinois Central College in Peoria near Par-A-Dice Casino and Atlantic Cape Community College in Mays Landing, N.J., which has been supporting nine casinos with specialized training since 1977 at its Atlantic Cape Casino Career Institute.
ICC in Peoria receives casino equipment and support from Par-A-Dice to train the casino’s future employees, according to Nacco.
“They’ve committed to pay $50,000 for scholarships for DACC to train incumbent employees,” he said of Danville’s casino developers, Haven Gaming. “And they’re going to continue to roll employees in, too.”
Nacco sees many possibilities for the vault on the main floor that is the size of a large room.
“This would be a fun room for casino training,” he said. “Rickey Williams (Sr.) sees this as an interesting place for a criminal justice class.”
DACC’s criminal justice program is scheduled to move to the facility by fall semester 2020, which would free up space in the Clock Tower building, Nacco said.
“Where we are the most overcrowded is in liberal arts at Clock Tower, so moving criminal justice out will help,” he said.
The remnants of two shooting ranges exist in the main building, but they were decommissioned in 2009. To restore the second-floor shooting range so that it is fully functional again would cost approximately $400,000, according to Nacco.
“That would be our lowest priority,” he said.