Wilkes University invested more than $4 million in campus improvements during the summer in preparation for the new academic year. Major additions and renovations being made to the campus include improvements to classrooms, upgrades to athletic facilities and renovations to residence halls. The summer and fall will also see the start of major campus projects at Stark Learning Center and 141 S. Main St. that will total more than $10 million by the time they are completed.
According to University President Patrick F. Leahy, it all adds up to a better campus experience for Wilkes students, faculty and staff.
“Strengthening our campus infrastructure is one of our strategic initiatives, and the work being done this summer and into the fall is part of an ongoing effort to create a traditional residential campus in our urban environment of Wilkes-Barre,” Leahy said.
Summer improvements include $800,000 in improvements to classrooms, enhancing the learning environment for students. Forty-five classrooms are part of the project, which includes creating five new classrooms. New classrooms will be created in Stark Learning Center and in the Marts Center. More than 500 new chairs – specially designed for interactive learning — are being added to classrooms for student seating. The chairs are on wheels, so that classrooms can easily be reconfigured from lecture-style seating to small groupings. Other classroom improvements include painting, new floors, carpeting, furnishings and adding smart classroom technology.
Before the summer is over, work will begin at 141 S. Main St. in anticipation of renovations to transform the space into the Karambelas Media Center and the new home for the Sordoni Art Gallery. The media center will house the the University’s Communication Studies program, including WCLH Radio, The Beacon student newspaper, television studios and Zebra Communications, a student-run public relations agency. The new art gallery will feature exhibition space that is double what exists in the current gallery.
Other major summer facilities projects include:
- The addition of new bleachers and restrooms at the Schmidt Stadium and upgrading restroom at the Ralston Athletic Complex at a combined cost of nearly $1 million.
- Over $500,000 in renovations at Waller Hall, a student residence at 36-40 West River St. The historic mansion, which houses about 30 first-year students, was built in 1925 by Julius Long Stern and his father Harry F. Stern, owners of Wilkes-Barre’s Isaac Long Store. Improvements being made this summer and continuing into the fall include painting, bathroom and kitchen renovations, carpeting, new furniture, lighting improvements and roof repairs.
- During the summer, Wilkes will also begin implementation of the signage and wayfinding project, aimed at better branding our campus and make it easier to navigate. The first phase of the three-phase project beginning this summer will cost $100,000, with total cost through summer 2017 expected to total more than $300,000.
- Additional projects strengthening campus infrastructure bring the total investment in summer 2016 to more than $4 million.
- During the course of the upcoming academic year, planning will begin in earnest for the University’s next major project: a full-scale renovation and expansion of the Stark Learning Center. This summer and fall, about $100,000 will be spent on the preliminary work that will total $6 million over the course of the next two years. The $6 million project is being funded by a $3 million RCAP grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania matched by $3 million in University funding.