Downtown living and learning facility rechristened the John R. Post Center at Reading CollegeTowne
By Jon Fassnacht
Last summer, Alvernia University opened Reading CollegeTowne, a 250,000-square-foot living and learning facility at 401 Penn Street, revitalizing the heart of the city.
Less than a year later, the university announced its expansion will continue thanks to the largest philanthropic gift in its six-decade history.
On a gorgeous June afternoon, university and community leaders gathered with faculty, staff and students to celebrate the facility’s renaming to the John R. Post Center at Reading CollegeTowne. Alvernia also announced its newly established engineering school will be named the John R. Post School of Engineering.
The benefactors — John R. and Maryanne Post — are longtime supporters of Catholic education. The gift will aid the phase two expansion of the School of Engineering, adding biomedical, chemical, civil and environmental engineering.
“I am proud to be part of the mission of this university, and of the promise it holds for our city,” said Post, the founder and president of Post Precision Castings Inc., a custom manufacturer of investment castings based in Strausstown, PA. “I look forward to seeing Reading CollegeTowne and the School of Engineering prosper in the years to come.”
The university launched the CollegeTowne initiative after purchasing the downtown building in December 2019, one of the key dates preserved for posterity on a pair of commemorative coins distributed to all in attendance at the naming ceremony. The initiative champions economic redevelopment in Reading, Philadelphia and Pottsville – homes of Alvernia’s community-based campuses – through partnerships and collaborations with city officials, local businesses and nonprofits.
Since then, the first phase of a $20 million renovation and retrofitting project has been completed in Reading. During that time, Alvernia assisted more than 200 small businesses and entrepreneurs through the O’Pake Institute for Economic Development and Entrepreneurship’s Spark Business Incubator and spurred six other development projects in vacant or abandoned buildings.
And more growth is on the horizon. At the ceremony, President John R. Loyack announced plans to invest over $50 million on Penn Street, including the purchase of a downtown landmark across the street.
“This gift also allows us to think beyond this project and forward to the next,” Loyack said. “We will be continuing our expansion and downtown redevelopment with the acquisition of the American House as we prepare for phase three of our CollegeTowne vision. You apparently need more than one building if it’s really going to be a town.”
The event’s speakers often fought to be heard over the sonorous city soundtrack of sirens, construction and other assorted noises. But the leaders took it in stride.
“It’s life in the city and we’re happy to be here,” Senior Vice President and Provost Glynis Fitzgerald quipped.
The university’s first engineering students arrived in fall 2021. A collaboration with the Engineering Advisory Board, a group of local community leaders and manufacturers, identified market demands for the new Bachelor of Science degrees in electrical, mechanical and industrial engineering.
The John R. Post Center at Reading CollegeTowne, the university’s largest single facility, features collaborative student gathering spaces, high-tech general-purpose classrooms, an esports arena, student housing and interfaith prayer spaces. It’s also the home of BCTV, Community First Fund, La Mega Radio, the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters’ Mother Veronica Resource Center and the region’s largest Starbucks.