RLPS Architects and Warfel Construction retrofit 401 Penn Street
Alvernia selects RLPS Architects and Warfel Construction as the design and build team for the remodeling and retrofitting of the newly acquired building at 401 Penn Street in downtown Reading. The new location is 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.
“We reviewed proposals from three of the best design and build teams in the area, and the RLPS and Warfel team stood out with the best overall design and the lowest-cost approach in addition to their expertise in adapting for grant requirements,” said Alvernia University President John R. Loyack. “Securing this team allows us to move into the agreement stage of the design to build process, making Alvernia’s expansion into downtown Reading one step away from reality.”
In total, three design and build teams were invited to participate in the bidding process. This process included meetings with the senior leadership team, affected university departments and the internal community through open forums.
“Alvernia utilized a design and build bidding process that encouraged innovation and collaboration among the bidding teams that ensured the process saves time and money,” said Alvernia board of trustees Chair Michael Fromm. “We are committed to using local suppliers and subcontractors as supporting the local business community is at the heart of CollegeTowne.”
The RLPS and Warfel team was selected because their proposal included the best overall design, most modular approach, best fit with the university and project vision, best ability to value-engineer the project and utilize an iterative approach and their commitment to utilizing the Reading and Berks County supply chain to complete the project.
“Warfel Construction is pleased to join Alvernia University on this transformational project,” said Warfel Construction CEO Ralph Simpson, Jr., PE. “Through partnership, collaboration, and a shared commitment to our core values, we’re excited to impact the changing landscape of Reading. We are honored to be part of this landmark redevelopment project.”
The University expects to assume possession of 401 Penn Street June 30. It will present finalized plans, designs, budgets and contracts to the Alvernia board of trustees for final approval later this month. One of the first programs to move into the building’s first-floor space will be the student-centered business incubator powered by Alvernia’s rebranded O’Pake Institute for Economic Development and Entrepreneurship.
The Reading CollegeTowne model, which thrives on partnerships and collaborations with businesses and local organizations, includes new and expanded academic programming, student housing and a strong community engagement component. Through a new student fellows program, O’Pake serves as the catalyst for educational and business expansion in center city. O’Pake recently announced partnerships with SCORE Berks Schuylkill Chapter and Lehigh Valley Angel Investors.
Alvernia’s founders, the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters, have provided educational and social services to the residents of downtown Reading for more than 100 years. Given the success of Alvernia’s Reading Collegiate Scholars and College Readiness programs, the move downtown is a natural progression for the university.