As a practical matter, plans called for adding child care, dining facilities, computer lounges, recreational facilities and spaces for one-on-one instruction into a program already crammed with requirements for adult education, basic course work, an extended curricula that involved health science, as well as financial aid, registration and other student services.

The trick, says Jankowski, was integrating spaces common to all stakeholders while separating those required by only some of them. The solution called for adjoining four-story and eight-story structures, with the shorter facility housing adult and general education facilities and the taller one relating to health and health services. Spaces in the eight-story structure progress from lower- to higher-fidelity simulation, culminating in a mock hospital on the top floor.

Linking the two structures is "a grade-level concourse—or what we call the heart—along with several ventricles that extend from it to form circulation pathways to spaces common to all, including student services, a student union, cafeteria and recreational center," says Renauld Mitchell, principal with architect of record Moody Nolan, one of the nation's largest African-American design firms, and director of its Chicago office. Responsible for executing design development and construction documents, Moody Nolan "brought a fresh set of eyes to the project" that prompted the firm to "streamline the design from a spatial perspective," says Mitchell.

Though site work began in early October, it wasn't until last April that the handoff between design architect and architect of record occurred. "We had just three and a half months to execute our documents, meaning a day's delay amounted to that of a week," says Mitchell.

To maintain pace, the firm expanded its two-year-old Chicago office to 14 staff members from nine and "divvied the project up," says Mitchell. Staffers operated in silos, variously assigned to health care, general education, sports and wellness, physical science and core and shell. A more traditional approach wouldn't have carried us to the finish line," says Mitchell.

From the outset, CCC has held tight reins on the project. Now that construction is under way, Mitchell, McLean and others engage daily in morning conference calls with Sanders and his staff.

Rather than view the calls as micro-management, as he says others might, Mitchell says, "They're born out of necessity—the schedule." He adds that he's gratified the project "affords a firm like ours to participate in something of this magnitude in this market. Hopefully, we're leaving a ladder behind for others to climb."