University to Receive Multiple Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Grants
Wilkes University today announced plans for the $3.5 million South Campus Gateway initiative. The three-part project includes improvements and additions that will transform Wilkes and the streets bordering it into a park-like campus in the heart of the City of Wilkes-Barre. The project combines University resources with Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and Department of Community and Economic Development funds to improve pedestrian safety, alleviate traffic congestion and beautify the campus and surrounding neighborhood.
Wilkes University President Patrick F. Leahy said the South Campus Gateway will make the campus safer and more attractive, increasing Wilkes’ unique appeal as a university that offers programs comparable to a large, research university in the mentoring culture of a small, liberal arts college.
“This is another step in our vision of creating a residential campus in an urban environment,” Leahy said. “This space will be enjoyed by our students, faculty and staff and by people who live and work in Wilkes-Barre.
“The South Campus Gateway project is an outstanding example of a public-private partnership. By matching dollar for dollar funds we have received from the state, we are able to greatly improve the look and safety of our campus. It would not be possible without state funding, and we are deeply grateful to Sen. John Yudichak and Rep. Eddie “Day” Pashinski for their help in securing the Multimodal Transportation Fund grant that will make this comprehensive and transformational project a reality.”
Wilkes alumnus Dan Cardell, a member of the Class of 1979 and chairman of the University’s board of trustees, said that the project embodies priorities outlined in the institution’s strategic plan, Gateway to the Future.
“The strategic plan calls for us to develop and strengthen our campus facilities and infrastructure. It also emphasizes supporting our host city,” Cardell said. “This project marries those two strategic priorities. These campus enhancements have the added benefit of helping us recruit more students and improving the neighborhood surrounding Wilkes. It is a win-win-win for Wilkes, our students and for the City of Wilkes-Barre.”
State Sen. John Yudichak praised the investments Wilkes has made in its campus and the city. “The $3.5 million South Campus Gateway will make the transportation network of the campus and city safer and more beautiful. It is the latest project in what has become a historic investment of tens of millions of dollars in the transformation of Wilkes University and downtown Wilkes-Barre. It illustrates that the partnership among Wilkes University, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the City of Wilkes-Barre is stronger than ever,” Yudichak said.
Rep. Eddie “Day” Pashinski said Wilkes has a tradition of commitment to the community. “Everyone knows Wilkes University has provided outstanding educational opportunities to thousands of students for decades, but many do not realize Wilkes also has invested substantial financial resources and creative planning to greatly enhance the quality of life for its students, faculty and staff and for city residents and visitors,” Pashinski said. “The result is a safe and beautiful environment and increased property values, demonstrating once again that Wilkes-Barre and northeast Pennsylvania are great places to live and raise a family. I am very pleased to have played a part in making these projects a reality.”
The three parts making up the South Campus Gateway are:
- A $1 million project that will create new entrances to the Henry Student Center parking lot from South River Street and South Franklin Street. The new entrances will relieve traffic congestion on West South Street. It will also create an expanded south entrance plaza to the student center and landscape open space on South Franklin Street that will serve as a pedestrian connector to the Henry Student Center. The project is funded by the Multimodal Transportation Fund (MTF) program, which provides grants for transportation-related projects. Wilkes received a $650,000 grant and is matching it with $350,000. The MTF grants are provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.
- A $1.35 million project that will create a new pedestrian walkway in front of the Henry Student Center. It also will fund streetscape improvements, including new sidewalks and lighting, on West South Street from South River to South Franklin Street and also on South Franklin from West South to Northampton Street. Funding for these improvements came via the PennDOT Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP), which provided a $1 million grant that is being matched by $350,000 from Wilkes.
- A $1.15 million project that will create a Gateway from the Henry Student Center to Stark Learning Center. The project, which will be entirely funded by Wilkes, will create a Gateway on south campus similar to the one which the University opened in 2015 on South Main Street. The two Gateways will beautify the campus and support renovations to the engineering labs in Stark Learning Center.
Work on the project is expected to begin in May 2017 with completion expected by fall 2018.
Wilkes-Barre Mayor Anthony George praised the University for its investment.
“Wilkes’ commitment to improving its campus is good news for the City of Wilkes-Barre,” George said. “The University has helped to attract money from Pennsylvania to our city that might easily have gone to other parts of the commonwealth. Thanks to the vision of President Leahy and his team, Wilkes-Barre’s citizens can enjoy a beautiful outdoor space.”
These projects are the next in a series of improvements that are transforming the Wilkes campus. Beginning in 2014 with the renovation of the University Center on Main to become the new home of the Jay S. Sidhu School of Business and Leadership, the campus has seen a continuous series of improvements. Projects have included:
- Renovations to the Stark Learning Center to house the Passan School of Nursing,
- Creation of the campus Gateway on South Main Street,
- Improvements to the Ralston Athletic Complex,
- The addition of amenities such as a campus Starbucks, and
- Renovations to the former Bartikowsky Jewelers building at 141 S. Main St. to create the Karambelas Media Center and a new home for the Sordoni Art Gallery.