The transformation of a former lumber mill site into landscaped roadways and a new intersection was celebrated Tuesday as the first step toward a long-envisioned education corridor in Coeur d’Alene.
“In 10 to 20 years, I don’t think we’ll believe what this place will look like,” Mayor Sandi Bloem said. “It will be a legacy for the future.”
Work crews broke ground on the $3.6 million project in June. They created a new intersection with traffic signals at Hubbard and Northwest boulevards, providing an additional entrance to North Idaho College and the Fort Grounds neighborhood. They also built three roundabouts to ease traffic flow and added sidewalks, curbs and landscaping.
The project was paid for with urban renewal money and lays the groundwork for the long-term education corridor plan. That collaboration among several Idaho colleges, including NIC, the University of Idaho and Lewis-Clark State College, is envisioned as a place where shared space and services will make it easier for students to access a wider variety of higher education opportunities in Coeur d’Alene.
NIC President Priscilla Bell said U.S. Department of Labor projections show that two-thirds of the country’s jobs by 2018 will require post-secondary degrees. This project helps make that possible for more North Idaho students, she said.
The NIC Foundation’s acquisition in July 2009 of the 17-acre former mill site adjacent to NIC was one of the final steps necessary to make the project happen. Mic Armon, president of NIC’s board of trustees, said the project enhances the city’s quality of life, thanks to supporters who have countered critics of the education corridor.
“It’s always a group of people that decides they’re not going to listen to the naysayers, and they just do it,” Armon said. “If we’d never procured the land, we’d never have had the opportunity to build on it in the future.”
Denny Davis, chairman of LCDC’s board of commissioners, said he hopes state lawmakers see the commitment that’s been made to the future of education in Coeur d’Alene and support it with dollars for capital improvements.
This project, Davis said, “cements the presence of higher education in our community.”