Alvernia set for $6 million renovation project in downtown facility at 500 Progress Ave.
Alvernia finalizes the purchase of the 30,000 sq. ft. building located at 500 Progress Avenue in downtown Pottsville. The latest addition to the Alvernia campus footprint will undergo a $6 million renovation project to become the centerpiece of Pottsville CollegeTowne, the innovative strategy of expanding the campus into the downtown area to continue its Franciscan mission of education, service and community engagement.
“The Pottsville CollegeTowne initiative has a permanent home on Progress Avenue thanks to the partnership and collaborative efforts between Schuylkill County’s visionary community leaders, dedicated government officials, and insightful industry leaders,” said Alvernia University President John R. Loyack. “With our footprint secure in downtown, Alvernia will continue its student-centered modernization of the university that will expand experiential learning opportunities for our students while providing countless economic development opportunities in downtown.”
500 Progress Avenue will serve as the university’s second physical presence of its new strategic direction and will be the home of new and expanded academic programming, retail space and the O’Pake Institute for Economic Development and Entrepreneurship’s student-powered business incubator. Alvernia was able to finalize the purchase of the building after receiving a $3 million grant from the Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) in December 2021. The university has also received a $250,000 commitment from the City of Pottsville for the initiative.
“Our future grandchildren and great grandchildren in Schuylkill County will have their lives changed as well because of what we’re celebrating here today,” said PA State Senator David G. Argall. “Today, we are looking at a vacant building where lives will be transformed, where young students and returning adult learners alike in health care, social work, logistics and many other fields of study will have the chance to learn and grow. This institution will literally change people’s lives for the better, one at a time.”
Inside the new property, the total academic space span 17,000 square feet and will be transformed into a high-quality and high-tech academic community-based space. The academic spaces feature four staff/faculty offices, 10 classrooms, a modern wet lab and a state-of-the-art computer lab. The facility will also include a conference room and open entry way featuring an inviting and professional lounge area for students, faculty and community guests. The remaining space in the building is being repurposed by the university through strategic regional partnerships as the institution seeks to expand and enhance its service to the community.
“Our partners and community leaders in the Pottsville community are helping us reimagine what the remaining portions of the facility could become, including retail and community-based programming space right in downtown Pottsville,” said Alvernia University Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff, John McCloskey. “We look forward to selecting a design and build team in the near future and begin construction in the spring with plans to be open for the fall 2022 semester.”
Alvernia’s O’Pake Institute will partner Schuylkill County-based students with regional entrepreneurs, small-business owners, faculty researchers and industry leaders to enhance economic development in the region through the institute’s student-powered business incubator.
"The Alvernia CollegeTowne Project is a significant development for the Pottsville community. This project, similar to the CollegeTowne Project in Reading, is a model for redevelopment in both Pottsville and throughout our area, and will drive education and entrepreneurial innovation for decades to come,” said U.S. Congressman Dan Meuser. Last year, I submitted the Community Project Funding request of $2.58 million to support the Alvernia University Pottsville Campus Project in Congress, and I am hopeful this funding will be included in 2022's final appropriations legislation.”
Alvernia is uniquely positioned and prepared to lead the Pottsville CollegeTowne initiative and plans to enlist other organizations and businesses such as the Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce and Pottsville Development Court to partner together to breathe new life and vitality into downtown Pottsville. The university looks to duplicate its early success of the CollegeTowne strategy in Reading, which has led to the start of several renovation projects spanning over 1,500,000 sq. ft. in redevelopment of vacant buildings along the Penn Street corridor, record-breaking new student enrollment and assisting over 125 businesses and entrepreneurs through the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As someone who grew up in Reading, I was able to witness the grand opening of the university’s new downtown location at 401 Penn Street and see first-hand how Reading CollegeTowne has become a hub of activity and catalyst for other redevelopment initiatives during its first few months of operation,” said Alvernia University Board of Trustees Chairman and Fromm Electric CEO, Michael Fromm. “I can attest to the transformational power of this strategy. We are so excited about the endless possibilities that CollegeTowne will bring to this city and the greater Schuylkill County region.”
Announced in July 2021, Alvernia serves as a strategic enabler in the Pottsville CollegeTowne model, including community engagement, a student-centered entrepreneurial lab, academic programming and buildings that will enhance the student experience for current and incoming students.