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LEWISBURG, Pa. -- Gov. Edward G. Rendell on Wednesday, Aug. 6, announced a $9 million state grant to support the Lewisburg Core Community Initiative, a joint venture between Bucknell University, the borough, Union County and several community-based organizations aimed at enhancing the downtown and the neighborhood connecting it to campus.
The Redevelopment Assistance Capital Project (RACP) grant is one of the largest Rendell announced this week during stops around the Commonwealth and the largest ever awarded in this region.
“This will help Bucknell develop University facilities in an area adjacent to the college campus in a way that will help stabilize the core downtown area of Lewisburg, retaining and creating jobs in the community, while providing new facilities that will support the University’s educational mission,” Rendell said during a news conference in the lobby of the Weis Center for the Performing Arts on the Bucknell campus.
He also announced funding for a science center at Susquehanna University and three bridge projects in Union and Snyder counties.
The RACP program provides matching funds for facilities that will stimulate economic development and create jobs. The funds support all aspects of construction, including site development, design and construction.
Lewisburg Core Community Initiative
The grant to Bucknell will allow the Lewisburg Core Community Initiative (LCCI) to proceed with investments that will increase downtown foot traffic, revitalize the neighborhood bordering on the University and downtown, create new facilities to serve Bucknell and the broader community, bring additional tax revenues to the local municipalities and create new jobs.
One of the major challenges facing the community is preserving the integrity of the core area of the borough, including commercial and residential properties, borough and Bucknell officials have said.
“We share a common home, and we share common interests, in education, in economic development, in improving the quality of life for the individuals who make this community, this region and this University home,” said Bucknell President Brian C. Mitchell. “Toward that end, we have worked hard together to build upon our common interests and set an agenda of growth and development that befits our core community.”
The LCCI will be developed in several phases. The grant announced Wednesday is linked to the first phase of the project that includes:
Inn and business center
The inn and business center is an anchor building that will be located on the edge of campus nearest downtown Lewisburg. The 75-room facility will host campus and regional visitors, academic conferences and campus-based meetings, and University and community events.
A majority of the grant will be used to pay for construction of the estimated $16.1 million inn and business center, which will be supported by an adjacent University parking garage. The inn and garage will be built on University property, the value of which will be used to contribute to a match of the state grant. Significant additional funds to construct the facility will come from private investors and be supplemented, as necessary, by Bucknell funds.
A national hotel chain will manage the inn and business center, which will be taxable. The University plans for construction to begin upon the completion of all related arrangements with the chain and private investors, likely by the end of 2009.
The Campus Theatre is a historic neighborhood movie theater located in the center of downtown Lewisburg. Recently, problems with the air-conditioning system resulted in damage to the theater, causing it to close for repairs. The RACP funds may also be used to repair the heating and cooling system and make other interior improvements that will expand the range of uses for the theater. The state grant will be matched dollar for dollar with private funds.
The Campus Theatre will be part of a downtown arts district to be further developed at a later stage of the LCCI and could include performance and visual arts venues. Work on the Campus Theatre will begin as soon as the exact nature of the renovations is determined, likely during fall 2008.
Working with a private developer, the University will relocate most of the functions currently provided at its on-campus bookstore to a new location on Market Street in downtown Lewisburg. This project, which will be financed with a combination of state grants and private funds, will create an anchor property on Market Street that will encourage more foot traffic for other businesses in the area and connect the University more directly to the community.
The facility, possibly to be run by a national bookstore chain, will remain a taxable property. The project is estimated to cost $8.5 million. Bookstore construction is scheduled to begin in spring 2009, with completion likely in spring 2010.
Other elements of the LCCI could include relocating Bucknell administrative offices downtown, placing at least 60 workers in the Market Street area; locating a childcare center in an area adjacent to the campus and the downtown; creating incentives for rehabilitating residences in the area that borders the University and Market Street; establishing hiking and biking trails, greenways and stormwater management projects that link the University and the downtown to the broader region; and relocating the Bucknell entrance further north on Route 15 to create safer non-vehicular travel across that heavily traveled highway.
It is anticipated that future state funds may be available to support some or all of these projects as well.
University representatives will work with local authorities on management of the grant announced Wednesday.
Lewisburg and Bucknell have already worked together and with the Commonwealth in a number of ways. Lewisburg is participating in both the Main Street and Elm Street programs and has recently made significant traffic improvements in the downtown area thanks in part to a Home Town Streets grant. And a nonprofit community organization, supported by Bucknell, secured state and federal grants to preserve the Campus Theatre.
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