CRESSONA - Alvernia University's Schuylkill County satellite campus is moving to Cressona Mall.
"It's a good location. Great parking. Nice visibility. And we're anxious to make a stronger commitment to the Schuylkill community and this is one way of doing it, because of the presence, further establishing our own identity. Hopefully by Oct. 15 we'll be ready to start classes. We're supposed to be moving in starting Oct. 1," Mary Sacavage, director of Alvernia University Schuylkill Center, Pottsville, said Friday.
Between now and October, contractors will execute a $500,000 renovation project to turn the former Social Security Administration and Beneficial Finance offices and a beauty parlor into a total of eight classrooms and student and faculty lounges, Douglas F. Smith, Alvernia's vice president for finance and administration, Reading, said Friday.
Since 1995, Alvernia University has had a presence in Schuylkill County, starting at McCann School of Business and Alvernia College campus in the Meridian Bank building in Pottsville.
Since 1997, Alvernia has leased six classrooms from McCann School of Business at 2650 Woodglen Road, Pottsville. Since 2004, Alvernia has leased up to three classrooms from Schuylkill Community Education Council at 1500 Rockwood Center.
Serving more than 200 students this year, Alvernia's Schuylkill Center employs a part-time faculty, Sacavage said. It offers bachelor's degree programs which include criminal justice administration and elementary education, graduate degree programs which include business administration, and graduate certification programs including elementary and secondary teaching certification and special education certification, according to Alvernia's Web site.
Since fall 2008, Sacavage said Alvernia's administrators have been considering a move while continuing the university's program partnership with McCann School of Business.
"We can't really expand at those locations. And we want to get all of our programs under one roof so we could offer better student services. Since all of the students will be here in one location, we'll be able to have someone on site all the time working with them. There were other places we explored. This seemed to be the best fit," Sacavage said.
Cressona Mall currently has a total of 36 storefronts.
"Of those we have eight vacancies, and Alvernia is going to take three of those," said mall Manager Cynthia Huntsinger.
Cressona Mall will lease about 10,400 square feet of space to Alvernia, Huntsinger said.
It is a seven-year lease with opportunities for contract extensions, and Alvernia will be paying "approximately $100,000 per year," Smith said.
"The landlord is paying for the improvements to the space. That's Cressona Associates LP. That's who our lease is with," Smith said.
Huntsinger said the mall's management firm, Dack Realty, Delaware, would not comment on the matter.
Meanwhile, the university is planning to spend $200,000 to furnish the new satellite campus, Smith said.
"In this facility we'll have eight classrooms in October and room for future expansion," Sacavage said.
Some new computer technology will be included.
"One of the classrooms will have permanent video conference availability. While we have video conferencing now, it's portable. Two of the classrooms will have smart board technology. We're getting new smart boards," Sacavage said.
The plan might also include signage on the mall's facade. Sacavage had a few concept drawings, completed by the mall.
"It's going to be beautiful," she said.