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Colleges keep building to improve facilities and technology and to stay current

The 55,000 square-foot-building, scheduled to open next August, will become the Sally Breidegam Miksiewicz Center for Health Sciences in memory of Breidegam Miksiewicz. A 1984 Moravian alumna who died at 52 in 2014, she was CEO and vice chairwoman of East Penn Manufacturing in Lyon Station.

Moravian is not alone when it comes to new construction and renovation on college and university campuses. Nationally, more than $12 billion is spent annually on campus construction as colleges strive to stay current to attract quality students, faculty and administration.

As buildings age, technology rapidly changes and particular careers gain traction, campuses must continuously upgrade, renovate and expand facilities and, in some cases, add new ones. They recognize that they need new and better facilities and technology to successfully compete in a landscape that includes a growing number of online-only colleges that have a minimal brick-and-mortar presence.

“Colleges need to keep the physical plants at the cutting edge,” said Bryon Grigsby, president of Moravian College. “We are preparing students for careers and jobs. You can’t have a world-class program without world-class facilities.”

$100M IN THE REGION

In the Greater Lehigh Valley, $100 million or more in construction and renovation is underway and/or planned by colleges. Besides Moravian, Lafayette, Kutztown, Alvernia, Cedar Crest and Northampton Community College are planning, building or have recently completed major projects.

Cedar Crest College in Allentown has $4.8 million in construction and improvement projects underway. The college will have 15 newly renovated spaces, including a redesign of the main floor of the Cressman Library as a student success center. Other major projects include Alumnae Hall lobby and auditorium, a theater and fitness center.

Meanwhile at Lafayette College in Easton, the construction binge is going beyond purely academic, athletic or housing purposes.

Lafayette is planning to develop mixed-use buildings on College Hill in Easton to house students and offer services to the college and community. Plans feature retail or commercial spaces on the first floor, with student housing above.

This is in addition to the college’s plan to relocate offices to a renovated Alpha Building in Easton.

“We are rising together,” Lafayette President Alison Byerly said of the college and city.

MORAVIAN COLLEGE

Moravian this year completed its renovation of the former 24-7 Fitness Club at 1441 Schoenersville Road in Bethlehem, now the Sports Medicine & Rehabilitation Center.

The college owns the building, while St. Luke’s University Health Network leases the space. The $6 million project offers 33,000 square feet for Moravian and more than 10,000 square feet for the network’s sports medicine and physical therapy services.

The Center for Health Sciences will include the first virtual cadaver lab in the Lehigh Valley, Grigsby said, noting that the lab would allow students to better understand human anatomy.

“All these buildings support the academics, and they support the students so they can achieve life’s goals,” Grigsby said.

Moravian College also is finishing turf athletic fields and has three or four additional construction projects going forward once they are funded and priorities are set, he added.

KUTZTOWN UNIVERSITY

Kutztown University also is completing several construction projects.

Workers are renovating the South dining hall, a $3.4 million food service project scheduled to open this fall, said Gerald Silberman, vice president of administration and finance at the university.

The university had to upgrade the facility to accommodate a new meal plan that will allow for 24-7 dining. The first floor will have a living room environment with a fireplace, stage, coffee shop and new pizza and sandwich venue, among other features.

Renovations also are underway on the second floor, with the entire facility getting a facelift.

$25M MORE IN THE WORKS

Kutztown also is working on $10.2 million in major upgrades at the 325-bed Deatrick Hall.

Renovations include new shower facilities, modernized elevators and rewiring all electrical systems. Other enhancements include installing Wi-Fi and upgrading all systems such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

The project, which began in May, will be complete this fall, Silberman said.

Also, the university is scheduled to overhaul and renovate DeFrancisco Hall, a $15 million project that awaits state funds. Meanwhile, typical repair and improvement projects, such as at the campus library, were underway this summer.

“We are not building a lot of new buildings because enrollment has been stagnant across the nation,” Silberman said.

NORTHAMPTON COMMUNITY COLLEGE

At Northampton Community College, an $18 million expansion was completed last year at its main campus in Bethlehem Township. The expansion included building two residence halls, a kitchen, dining hall and outdoor gathering areas, plus added security features, to serve hundreds of students.

In 2014, NCC opened its $72 million Monroe County campus in Tannersville.

But this year, the big project is the completion of the upgrade to the main-campus college center building and lounges on the first and second floor, said Mark Culp, director of facilities and campus safety for NCC.

The upgrade will give the area a much more open look, with all areas getting new furniture.

“There were a few walls taken down so the space has a more open view of the quad,” Culp said.

One of the newest projects at NCC is the creation of a new classroom for training students to work with Victaulic products. The Forks Township-based manufacturer has an agreement with NCC to train students on its equipment, he added.

ALVERNIA UNIVERSITY

Alvernia University in Reading wants to add more than 100,000 square feet of classrooms and recreational space on an 15 acres in a multimillion dollar construction project, officials said.

The Recreation, Wellness and Health Sciences Complex, called The Plex, would be built to house the new classrooms and rec space, which also will be available for the community to use on the new East Campus.

The complex includes a 70,000-square-foot field house designed to provide indoor recreation space for students and the campus community. The building also would be home to a six-lane, NCAA competition-level indoor track and four full-sized sports courts.

Also at The Plex would be a 35,000-square-foot academic wing to promote shared learning in the health care and social services fields, including athletic training, counseling, occupational therapy, physical therapy, nursing and social work programs.

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