East-West University keeps saying they are a well-kept secret in the South Loop. With 760 students, half of whom are the first in their family to attend college--80 percent minority and almost 100 percent eligible for financial aid--maybe they are. But this morning you never would have believed they were a secret. Everyone was at the groundbreaking for the third building that will make up the school--a brand new student life center to be constructed on Wabash, just north of 9th.
"Now we will have a building from each century," said John Thomas, head of public relations for the school. The East-West building at 816 S. Michigan was built in the 1890s; the building just behind it at 819 S. Wabash was built in the early part of the 20th century (and remodeled in the latter part) and the new building--next door to 819--will be a spiffy, light-filled, green-featured structure with 10 floors of campus housing, an athletic center, gym, library, food court, auditorium and security 24/7. All on a great piece of South Loop real estate--and all ready to roll in the fall of 2013.
The groundbreaking ceremony today was a lively event. All the school officials were there, of course. A few of whom spoke beautifully about the 31-year-old institution catering to a needy and diverse student body. But there were also students and faculty; community leaders and business icons; and politicians. Alderman Fioretti gave a nice talk and so did Congressman Danny Davis. Fioretti said the building will add to "the 24/7 lifestyle" in the neighborhood; and Davis said "East-West is the Best!"
All of this occurred over lox and bagels with all
the trimmings from the Eleven City Diner
a block or so down Wabash. Drinks included juice and coffee. And there were churros, too. It was a lovely morning, albeit pretty cold, but it was warm and cozy inside the tent. And the actual moving of the dirt with the shovels only took a minute or two and only the big shots and the photographers were required to go out for the ritual. Everyone else could stay in the tent and munch on the bagels and lox if they wanted.
I learned something new about East-West, today, too. The school also owns the property at the southeast corner of 9th and Wabash
. The land is currently leased as a surface parking lot and has been ripe for development for well over a decade. Which begs the question: What and when will East-West build next?
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