by Alana J. Mauger
National Penn Bank presented a $20,000 check Thursday to the Schuylkill River Heritage Area (SRHA) and Montgomery County Community College to support of the development of the Riverfront Academic and Heritage Center in Pottstown.
The new center will be housed in the 140 College Drive building that currently serves as the SRHA headquarters. The building sits along the Schuylkill River Trail, and beside Riverfront Park.
The project will expand the College’s West Campus by transforming the three-acre Brownfield site into a state-of-the-art educational facility. The Center will house three classrooms equipped with SMART technology; a state-of-the-art laboratory that will support the College’s Environmental Science degree program, and a new SRHA Interpretive Center.
“Because of the generous support from donors like National Penn Bank, our ability to start phase one of the project is enhanced,” said College President Dr. Karen A. Stout. “We hope that this gift will help us to build momentum for the Riverfront Academic and Heritage Center, which is important for the economic development of the Pottstown Borough and for the health of the Schuylkill River.”
Phase one of the project, anticipated to conclude by fall 2011, includes renovating the infrastructure of the currently unused portion of the building and developing the Interpretive Center in what is currently being used as the SRHA’s conference room.
“The Interpretative Center will provide educational, historic and tourist information about the Schuylkill River Heritage Area,” said SRHA Executive Director Kurt Zwikl. “It is intended to serve as a visitors’ center for the entire Schuylkill River region, and will include interactive displays and a historical overview of the river’s role in the American, Industrial and Environmental Revolutions.”
The Riverfront Academic and Heritage Center will also allow for joint programming between the College and the SRHA, with non-credit courses that promote awareness of the river as a historical, cultural and natural resource. Such courses will run the gamut from historical perspectives of the region, to lessons in kayaking and bicycle maintenance.
“As an active member of our communities, National Penn is pleased to support this unique partnership which will allow the students of MCCC to learn more about the Schuylkill River, thus continuing their education through this innovative learning experience,” said David B. Kennedy, National Penn Group Executive.
According to Dr. Stout, the development of the Riverfront Academic and Heritage Center is necessary to support new programs to allow the West Campus to grow.
“West Campus enrollment has grown by more than 16 percent since 2009 and currently stands at approximately 3,000 unduplicated credit students. Non-credit enrollment also continues to increase at the West Campus, serving approximately 2,500 community residents annually,” she said.
Previously owned by PECO Energy, the building at 140 College Drive served the Pottstown community as an electrical generating station starting in 1911. After sitting vacant for a number of years, the building and three-acre site were purchased by the Borough of Pottstown. The College secured ownership of the site in April 2009, and enjoys a partnership with the SRHA, which leases office space in the building.
Designed to be sustainable, the College will seek LEED certification for the Center and will look to incorporate a variety of sustainable adaptations, such as a green roof and geothermal energy sources, that can serve as both a tool for teaching and learning and as an energy and cost-savings alternative.
A variety of sponsorship and funding opportunities are available to help bring the proposed Riverfront Academic and Heritage Center to fruition. To learn more, visit www.mc3.edu/giving or call the College’s Foundation at 215-641-6535.