401 Penn Street Construction Progress

Alvernia president John R. Loyack (center) with Alvernia staff outside of 401 Penn Street during the ongoing renovation of the university's new Reading CollegeTowne campus

Three community-enhancing organizations make a move to 401 Penn Street


Community First Fund, La Mega Radio and the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters join BCTV and Starbucks as tenants at Alvernia University’s Reading CollegeTowne campus, located at 401 Penn Street in downtown Reading.


“As we put the final touches on the first set of renovations to 401 Penn Street, we are excited to welcome our partners to their new spaces in our Reading CollegeTowne campus,” said Alvernia University President John R. Loyack. “Their presence ensures our downtown campus will be a beacon for experiential learning, community partnership and economic development in downtown Reading for years to come.”


Community First Fund, a private, independent non-profit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) whose mission is to provide capital in places where it is not usually available, will have a new space to provide counseling and loan capital to Reading-based small businesses and entrepreneurs, including those in the O’Pake Institute’s student-powered business incubator.


“After having an office and lending team in Berks County for the past 20 years, Community First Fund is very excited to be establishing an expanded office in Alvernia’s CollegeTowne campus,” Community First Fund Chief Lending Officer Jim Buerger. “The newly renovated space will help us advance our mission of providing access to capital to small business entrepreneurs and community partners in Berks and the surrounding counties.”


La Mega Radio 92.9fm is part of VM Broadcasting LLC, the largest Hispanic radio corporation with a network of six radio assets in Pennsylvania that serve the Allentown, Reading and Philadelphia markets.


“La Mega 92.9fm has become Reading’s most powerful and influential Hispanic media,” said Partner and Owner of VM Broadcasting Matthew Braccili. “La Mega looks forward to their new downtown Reading location.”


Alvernia’s foundresses, the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters, will continue their mission to serve the underserved in Reading by relocating the Mother Veronica Resource Center (MVRC) to Penn Street. The MVRC provides classes, tutoring, educational and social services resources for local immigrants and for all Reading-based area adults who seek to improve the quality of their lives and enhance the community.


“We are so happy for the additional space that College Towne will afford us,” said Bernardine Franciscan Sisters Education Coordinator Sister Rose Jameson OSF. “This means we should have no waiting lists and that we will be able to accommodate those clients who request our services, especially those from the northern section of the city. God is good and has answered our prayers.”


The move to downtown will increase the number of students able to enroll in the MVRC's evening ESL, Citizenship preparation, and GED in Spanish classes by 50-80% and potentially eliminate student waiting lists. In addition,the MVRC will be able to accommodate more students in summer conversation classes and anticipate more participation because of an easier commute.


The university launched the CollegeTowne initiative in Reading in late 2019. Since its launch, Alvernia purchased a downtown location and launched a $20 million renovation and retrofitting project that has spurred six other development projects in empty or abandoned buildings that is resulted in nearly 1,000,000 sq ft of transformation in the downtown corridor. The downtown location, where the new O'Pake offerings will operate, is slated to open in late August 2021.