Renovating a former mill and warehouse into a Campus Resource for Academic, Business, and Community Partnerships
Master planning was the first step to convert a 200-year-old former paper mill into Knowledge Park, a Project Based Learning (PBL) resource for local businesses, students and faculty members. This business incubator and innovation hub will provide multiple benefits:
- Repurpose and beautify the previously blighted 40-acre property
- Enhance the student experience through Project Based Learning opportunities
- Attract commercial tenants to a key corridor that connects the college campus to the surrounding downtown.
Knowledge Park to be a Shared Resource for Project-Based Learning
The 101,599 square foot warehouse structure will include small classrooms or conference rooms, a large seminar room and student study and collaboration spaces. Private industry and public sector partners will lease offices and shell spaces to be fit out for their specific needs.
Knowledge Park is designed to offer real-world experience for students studying in multiple disciplines, from engineering and computer science to the liberal arts. The defined-use spaces will be complemented by shared amenities spread across three floors. These resources include lounges, huddle rooms, collaboration zones and break room. Community event spaces for special programs and activities will reinforce the spirit of collaboration between students, faculty, and private/public partners.
Business partners foster the critical linkages within the Graham Center for Collaborative Innovation. These strategic partnerships facilitate active Project-Based Learning, collaborative research with a faculty member and/or student and student co-op/internship opportunities or part-time work.
Architectural Design Strategy to Create a Knowledge Park
The architectural language borrows heavily from York’s deep industrial history and wealth of factory building stock. Modern elements pair with the industrial aesthetic to announce the forward-thinking focus of this contemporary learning center. A dramatic 3-story design gesture at the new west entry serves as a beacon that is visible from the main campus and west campus axis.
The original factory site plan was informed by the edges of Tyler Run and Codorus Creeks which historically provided power to the facilities. The northern and western edges continue to be defined by the creeks, but open green spaces along the property edge will now allow for interaction with the waterways.
Integration of Historic Property into Knowledge Park Complex
The historic Mill House (Philip King House), physically connected to the manufacturing complex, will be converted to office spaces for the College and collaborative conference rooms for shared use with tenants. The design team was deliberate about preserving the story of the factory by identifying artifacts and icons that continue the narrative.
Interior and exterior features will be repaired and upgraded to serve the complex while maintaining the historic character. The use of thin, glassy and lightly structured connections between the Philp King House and the mill preserves the identity of both structures while providing needed access and connectivity.
The West End Warehouse will offer a dramatic entrance to the complex by introducing natural light, high ceilings, large multi-use spaces and vertical building circulation. Kings Mill Warehouse will serve as the interior crossroads of the complex with huddle rooms and a grand stair open to multiple stories and skylights above.
Assisting with Innovative Funding Sources
York College purchased the site more than a decade ago and has maintained it since then, waiting for an appropriate use. A $6 million Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant paved the way for development of this property, expanding the College’s North Campus.
A series of focus groups, followed by a design charrette and concept review meetings assembled feedback from multiple stakeholder groups to quickly come to a design consensus for an innovative, Project-Based Learning resource. This enabled the first phase of redevelopment to move forward within a tight timeframe required for the RACP funding mechanism.
“This project will be a true college/community partnership that helps improve the City and our campus while serving to create high-skill/high-wage employment opportunities for our students and alumni.”
Pamela Gunter-Smith, President, York College of Pennsylvania
As part of the campus learning commons, McCormick Library is a vital resource that has continued to evolve and adapt to changing priorities. This library update project was the design result of fewer bookshelves and more digital reference materials and technology resources for hands-on learning and collaboration opportunities.
HACC recently halved its physical collection of books and periodicals paving the way for relocating the Campus Tutoring Center into the library. The next step was updating the interior environment. Reworking the overall space layout allowed for comfortable coexistence of quiet, private study areas and group collaboration spaces. This involved adding individual study zones and group project meeting rooms, as well as integrating flexible technology accommodations in all areas. The library updates also reinforced HACC branding, referencing campus standards for both colors and maintenance preferences.
Library Updates to Enhance Learning Commons / Group Study Opportunities
Collaboration cubes and soft seating options were introduced to accommodate varied student needs. Two new group study rooms were added in the center of the second floor. This helped to define and separate the different tutoring and learning commons areas arranged around them. The group study rooms have solid end walls and semi-transparent side walls with sliding glass doors on one side.
Flexible furniture systems, including mobile whiteboards and modular workstations, were a priority. Replacement carpeting extended under the existing stacks to allow for future rearrangement or further reduction of physical materials. Booth-style seating and both high-top and low tables accommodate different student preferences and uses. The finish upgrades also addressed the need for enhanced sound absorption, particularly with the inclusion of open tutoring areas. New acoustical panels meet this functional requirement while adding visual appeal by extending color and texture to the walls.
Quiet Spaces Still Needed as Part of Library Update
Students highly valued the second floor of McCormick Library as the only space on campus designated as quiet study space. Due to appealing views at the front of the building, students tended to gravitate to furniture near the wall of windows on that side of the building for quiet reading and study.
The design reinforces this area as the quiet study space on the floor. The renovation introduced a new solid glass partition to create a designated quiet area that is acoustically separated from other spaces, particularly the collaboration zones on the floor. The glass wall allows light to flow through into other areas while providing views into the space inviting student use. Rather than seating groups, the quiet room has individual seating with options for enhanced visual privacy. Solo seating with a privacy wing is meant to be oriented so that the privacy wing faces the interior. Acoustical wall panels were also added in this area to maintain a quiet and comfortable learning commons option.
This $20 million renovation and retrofitting project forms the centerpiece of a multi-faceted academic, entrepreneurship and housing initiative. The mixed-use academic center fosters unique living and learning opportunities for students, while serving as a community resource for economic development.
Adaptive Re-use for Mixed-Use Development
A former office building was converted into a 260,000 SF mixed-used resource for Alvernia University and downtown Reading. CollegeTowne includes a business trading lab, classrooms, labs, esports facilities, student housing, a new engineering program, and a business incubator. Phase 1 of CollegeTowne opened in fall 2021.
The ground floor redesign features a community gathering place and lounge area, as well as space for the university’s business and communication programs. It also houses the O’Pake Institute for Economic Development and Entrepreneurship’s student-powered business incubator. Renovations on the lower level include a collaborative student gathering space, high-tech classrooms, spaces for the university’s esports team and cutting-edge labs for three new engineering programs. The fourth and fifth floors will be retrofitted for student housing, initially designed to house 66 students, with buildouts available to accommodate up to 200 students.
A Beacon for Experiential Learning and Community Engagement
The building façade respectfully honors the City of Reading Historic District Ordinance remembering significant architectural features of the original structure while creating a new entry beacon for CollegeTowne. The complementary features signify the collaborative opportunities between the University and the city while enhancing safety and defining a community courtyard feature.
As a mixed-use center, the commercial Penn Street presence is strengthened with community tenant partners that support the developments’ mission while the residential components front the more residential Court Street façade. The programming of the initial phase allows for future growth in residential units, academic programs, and community engagement.
Flexible Academic Center Design for Hands-on Learning
This building is designed to be an experiential teaching and learning space with flexible, modular classrooms equipped with the latest technology. Students collaborate with faculty members in learning spaces that include the trading floor, a state-of-the-art media studio, podcasting stations, publishing studios and esports spaces. A number of the spaces are open or feature glass walls to provide transparency for showcasing many of the activities taking place in the building core.
Innovative Funding Sources for Mixed-Use Academic Center
Described as a “landmark redevelopment project,” CollegeTowne is partially funded through a $4 million grant from the Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant. The project also received a $300,000 grant from the Wyomissing Foundation to support the student powered business incubator, the flagship program through the university’s O’Pake Institute for Economic Development and Entrepreneurship. Awarded over three years, this grant will facilitate new staff and student fellow positions, training and resource expansion for incubator clients.
Community Resource for Economic Development
CollegeTowne is a strategy and model for championing economic redevelopment. Through partnerships and collaborations with the City of Reading and local businesses and organizations, Alvernia serves as a strategic enabler for strengthening the local economy downtown. Starting with purchasing a mostly vacant building and then adding academic programming, a business incubator and eventually student housing, the project is expected to foster engagement and energy in downtown Reading.
Flexible Design Solutions for Student-Led LGBTQ+ Organization
Interior renovations to the The Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA) space included new furniture and finishes to create a flexible and inviting floor plan for organizing and hosting events, a collaborative workspace for meetings, and an overall comfortable environment for socializing and studying. Technology was included in the meeting space for easy plug-in and presentation capabilities. An array of soft seating areas were provided throughout the suite to accommodate individual study and group gatherings. It was important for the space to be appealing to all students, reflecting the student-centered mission of this organization.
“Living Room of the College”
The student-led SAGA organization moved to a more prominent campus location, the Steinman College Center. The Center is a student-run facility that, according to F&M’s website, “acts as the ‘living room’ of the College – a place where students, faculty, professional staff and guests meet and share a variety of social, educational, cultural and recreational experiences.”
Photography Credit: Nathan Cox Photography
Big Changes in a Small Timeframe
Continuing multi-phased student housing updates that have taken place at Franklin & Marshall College over five summers, the renovations to Schnader Hall had to be completed when students would not be in the building. This condensed renovation schedule required nimble planning so that students would be able to return in time for the fall semester. The effort was assisted by extensive preconstruction efforts including a design process that started at the conclusion of the prior phase. The lobby, study lounges, restroom, corridors, and resident rooms all received a refresh.
A New Outlook for Older Student Housing
Like Franklin & Marshall College itself—originally founded in 1787, but moving forward and adapting to modern changes—Schnader Hall sits at a junction, separating the residential quad from the main academic areas of the College. It was important, during the design of the housing renovations, that Schnader Hall remain a place that students would want to both live and study. Through careful and imaginative renovation design, approximately 20 extra beds were able to be comfortably added while maintaining student safety and privacy. To complete the residence hall transformation into a completely new space, Schnader Hall as a whole received updates of bright colors and energetic accents.
Comfort and ADA Compatibility
Because the student population is now more diverse than ever, special consideration was taken to add all-gender, ADA accessible bathrooms in each hall. These bathrooms share sinks, but provide separate, private toilet and shower areas. In addition, excessive doorways and the walls around them were removed or reworked, creating a more open, welcoming space for all students. To add to student comfort, new MEP systems were introduced.
Photo Credit: Nathan Cox Photography
From Auto Parts Store to Restored 19th Century Landmark Building
This adaptive reuse project transformed a condemned building into a beautiful multi-use cultural resource. In addition to the main recital hall, the building also houses offices for the Honors Program, Campus Ministry and Community Services, a student lounge and a meditation chapel. Working entirely within the existing envelope, the refurbished building features extensive interior detailing and casework, with environmentally friendly cork flooring.
The 19th century landmark was originally built in 1884 as a meeting house for the growing city of Williamsport and most recently was being used as an auto parts store. Lycoming College originally purchased the property with the intention of making a parking lot. However, a financial gift to the college facilitated a new vision for the solid 19th century brick building.
Multi-Use Resource for the College and Surrounding Community
The dramatic transformation incorporates pieces of the college’s history including terra cotta medallions from a former campus art and music conservatory and a stained glass window rescued from another campus building. Flexible seating was utilized for the recital hall to accommodate a wide range of programming for up to 100 people on the first floor with an additional 20 seats in a balcony viewing area. The recital hall has become a vibrant, acoustically-friendly addition to the campus, well received by the Lycoming College music program and the surrounding community.
Photo Credit: Michael Mutmansky Photography
Significant façade renovations helped the college enhance its visual impact within the existing urban setting. The new facade employs light to create a dynamic color display. To maximize the lighting effects, vertical building columns were enclosed by seamless metal. Metal sunscreens were installed at each window at a 90-degree angle to create a sun-generated display of ever-changing shadows. An uninviting concrete overhang was replaced with a curved canopy to provide a panoramic view of an interior art gallery. RLPS provided conceptual design and Tippits/Weaver Architects provided design execution.
Photo Credit: Larry Lefever Photography
A Place of Opportunity
York College of Pennsylvania has a very strong business program, but the building in which it was housed needed updating and significant expansion to accommodate all of its faculty and desired programming. Located close to local York businesses and corporations, the program offered its enrolled students many advantages but needed contemporary classrooms, trading labs and support spaces with built-in flexibility to adapt as the curriculum advances. The design result was a five-story addition and renovations to house all business administration faculty in one building and facilitate active, hands-on learning experiences and spontaneous collaboration.
Connection to the Campus
The building needed to display outwardly what was going on inside. A sleek corporate design was selected, but it had to fit in aesthetically with the other brick buildings on campus. Due to the existing building’s location on the campus quad, the expansion was situated so that all angles of approach are welcoming and connected to the center of campus. The end result is a primarily brick façade facing the campus quad and merging with the other buildings, with refined metal and glass surfaces facing outwards, capitalizing on the city views.
A Modern Setting for Modern Students
The inside of the building features an expansive two-story lobby equipped with a NASDAQ ticker. Further inside are nine smart classrooms with seating for 40 students each, a 150-seat auditorium, a commerce lab, and a corporate training center. Other additions include offices, collaborative research areas, and breakout rooms that promote spontaneous learning. The building is capped with Yorkview Hall, a multipurpose space enclosed in glass, capable of seating 300 people for diverse events. Yorkview Hall opens out onto terraces with panoramic views of the city of York.
Award: American School & University 2014 Architectural Portfolio Outstanding Design
Photo Credit: Nathan Cox Photography
These projects involved interior design services for renovations and additions, including a new entrance and multipurpose room to create Weis College House and common spaces for Brooks College House. Services included furniture space planning for the Multipurpose, Seminar and Living Room areas and selection of furniture and furniture finishes, as well as coordination of the bidding process and furniture installation. Interior furnishing selections were made to complement the architectural character of the project in coordination with high end finishes including maple and anigre paneling, bluestone flooring and an acoustical millwork feature wall.
Photo Credit: Nathan Cox Photography
A former gymnasium, natatorium and classroom facilities were renovated and expanded. The main element of the new Performing Arts Center is a 750-seat theater with stage and full fly loft. The building includes a second “black box” performance space, as well as classrooms below the theater at a basement level. Back of house spaces include a green room, changing rooms, a scenery shop and storage areas. The adjacent former gymnasium structure was renovated into classrooms, offices and support spaces to form the Humanities Center which includes 26 classrooms, large group instruction area, learning resource area and café.
Photo Credit: Larry Lefever Photography