Alvernia University breaks ground on a $20 million renovation and retrofitting project at its new downtown Reading location at 401 Penn Street, the centerpiece of Reading CollegeTowne, the innovative strategy of expanding the campus into the downtown area to continue its Franciscan mission of education, service and community engagement.
The university also announced the addition of a Starbucks franchise to the corner of Fourth and Penn streets that will be managed by the institution’s food service provider, Aladdin Food Services.
“We are here today to break ground on a historic renovation project that will benefit our students, faculty and staff members, local businesses and entrepreneurs, and bring about a new era for the City of Reading reminiscent of the city’s storied and vibrant past,” said Alvernia University’s President John R. Loyack.
“This type of progress is nearly unimaginable and can only be attributed to the unique partnerships and friends working together to bring Reading CollegeTowne to life.”
Previously, the university announced a $4 million grant from the Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant to renovate 401 Penn Street. The grant award is the largest in the university’s 62-year history.
“Congratulations to President Loyack and the entire Alvernia team for all that you have done to make this happen,” said Pennsylvania State Senator Judy Schwank. “Thank you for having this vision and understanding how important this will be for our city.”
The renovation will begin immediately, with an opening planned for late summer 2021. The ground floor redesign will feature a community gathering place and lounge area, development of space for the university’s refreshed business and communication programs and become the home for the O’Pake Institute for Economic Development and Entrepreneurship’s student-powered business incubator, which currently has 50 local businesses utilizing its services.
The lower level renovations include a collaborative student gathering space, high-tech general-purpose classrooms, spaces for the university’s recently announced esports team and cutting-edge labs for the three new engineering programs. The fourth and fifth floors will be retrofitted for student housing, with initial designs to house 66 students, with buildouts available to accommodate up to 200 students.
“This building is designed to be a superior teaching and learning space with flexible, modular classrooms integrated with the latest technology,” said Alvernia University Senior Vice President and Provost Glynis Fitzgerald.
“Students will benefit greatly from the collaboration with faculty members in these new learning spaces including the trading floor, a state of the art media studio, podcasting stations, the internationally recognized student literary journal, Zephyrus, and the university’s student-run newspaper, The Alvernian, esports and so much more.”
Alvernia has partnered with RLPS Architects and Warfel Construction to complete the renovations because of their ability to value-engineer the project, utilize an iterative approach and their commitment to utilizing the Reading and Berks County supply chain to complete the project.
“We are honored to have a hand in this venture that will shape the future of Reading,” said Warfel Construction CEO Ralph Simpson, Jr. “We are proud to source local contractors and work closely with them on this landmark redevelopment project.”
Alvernia students living and learning in the city will have new opportunities for entertainment, professional development and volunteering.
“As students, we look forward to being a part of a new era for Reading and we are truly grateful for the opportunity Alvernia and the City of Reading is affording us to play an important role in its transformation,” said Alvernia University Student Government Association President Corinne Hambleton ’21.
“It is truly a unique experience that will benefit us as students within our service, academic, and living opportunities for years to come.”