Alvernia University CollegeTowne
This $20 million renovation and retrofitting project forms the centerpiece of a multi-faceted academic, entrepreneurship and housing initiative. The mixed-use academic center will foster 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 is being converted into a 260,000 SF mixed-used resource for Alvernia University and downtown Reading. Plans for CollegeTowne include a business trading lab, classrooms, labs, esports facilities, student housing, a new engineering program, and a business incubator. Renovations are underway, with a Phase 1 opening planned for fall 2021.
The ground floor redesign will feature a community gathering place and lounge area, as well as space for the university’s business and communication programs. It will also be home to 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 will collaborate with faculty members in new learning spaces including the trading floor, a state-of-the-art media studio, podcasting stations, publishing studios and esports spaces. A number of the spaces will be 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.
Oak Tree Development – 48 on the Park
This project reinvented a decommissioned chocolate factory complex, built over 100 years ago, into a multi-use development. The multi-use redevelopment project is anchored by the iconic Wilbur Chocolate Factory, which is being repurposed into an upscale hotel, market, restaurant and luxury condominiums. The complex will also be home to The Lofts at Lititz Springs, a new 55+ satellite housing option for Pleasant View Communities, a nearby retirement community, as well as market-rate apartments. The vision for the project encompasses varied uses to ultimately bring more people into this thriving downtown to live, shop, dine and stay.
Redeveloping a Downtown Chocolate Factory Complex
The former Wilbur Chocolate Factory was comprised of a dozen different buildings added to the original structure over the decades. The adaptive re-use solution preserved the most historically and architecturally significant portions of the buildings and removed the later industrial additions that lacked aesthetic value and were competing for daylight on an already crowed site. The additions and new structures on the site blend with the old by echoing the roof lines and window placement. Additionally, materials such as red brick are featured throughout both the exterior and interior of the buildings and iron railings are repeated on both existing and new construction.
Fitting Diverse Uses on a Tight Site Squeezed Between a Functioning Rail Line and Town Streets
Breathing room was carved out of the chocolate factory by removing parts of the building that had less architectural value to make room for a series of entry experiences. Starting at Broad Street, the public entrances to both the restaurant and marketplace echo the former street-facing retail component of the factory and embraces the fabric of the town. Progressing deeper into the site, a former loading dock and 1970s addition were removed to form the main courtyard entrance for the hotel and public entrance to the condominiums. Around the corner, a former parking lot is being converted to The Lofts 55+ housing, extending the town streetscape and directly connecting those residences to the new amenities.
The 26 unique condo residences take advantage of the exposed brick and heavy timber structure to create unique, luxury living quarters with views of the adjacent park. Likewise, the 74-room boutique hotel complements the personality and style of Lititz. “The Wilbur” pays homage to the historic chocolate brand that is a big part the community heritage and provides upscale guest rooms and amenities within the framework of these historic buildings. Adding to an already thriving retail and food culture in Lititz, the design also includes a new 150-seat restaurant and food marketplace along Broad Street. This new building addition has been carefully designed to be a good architectural neighbor to the well-established fabric of downtown Lititz.