by Alana J. Mauger
Montgomery County Community College held a celebration on Feb. 2 to mark the completion of phase two in the transformation of the former brownfield site at 140 College Drive, Pottstown, into a thriving community resource.
Through a unique partnership between MCCC and the Schuylkill River National and State Heritage Area (SRHA) the Riverfront Academic and Heritage Center will help to support local and regional revitalization plans by serving as a hub for education, culture, recreation and conservation.
“We’re proud of the College’s unique partnership with the Schuylkill River Heritage Area – a partnership that we believe to be the first of its kind in the nation,” said President Dr. Karen A. Stout. “We’re already exploring the joint programming possibilities between our two organizations – such as non-credit courses that run the gamut from historical perspectives of the region, to lessons in kayaking and bicycle maintenance.”
The expansion supports unprecedented enrollment growth at its West Campus, which has increased by more than 60 percent over the past five years. Recently, Community College Week ranked the West Campus as 15th among the fastest growing community college campuses of similar size in the country.
The Center also advances the College’s strategic commitment to sustainability, symbolized during the celebration by cutting a green ribbon.
“The ribbon is a symbol of the sustainable nature of this project—its construction, programming and ties to the river. Inside, students will learn in high-tech classrooms, while outside the river and its surroundings will serve as a natural tool to enhance teaching and learning,” said Dr. Stout.
When completed, the Center will house College’s growing Environmental Science degree program, which will utilize outdoor learning spaces in addition to the facility’s four SMART classrooms and state-of-the-art science laboratory. It will also support expanded courses in geology, geography and geographic information systems at a time when industry demand for these skills continues to grow.
The Center will also include an Interpretative Center, facilitated by the SRHA. Here, guests can learn about the history of the Schuylkill River – from its significance in Colonial times and during the Industrial Revelation, to the more recent development of its trail systems. Interpretative Center installation will begin in March, and has been funded, to date, by the National Park Service, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, The Martin Foundation, National Penn Bank, and members of the SRHA Board of Directors.
Completed in January, phase two of the project focused on renovations to the building’s deteriorating infrastructure. The building’s aged, leaking roof was replaced with an eco-friendly green roof; a new entrance and handicap-accessible ramp were constructed; and energy efficient windows were installed. Other Phase II work included updating water and sewer service and the cleaning and abatement of asbestos.
Phase one of the project was completed in March 2010 and included the decontamination and renovation of the Center’s 202-vehicle parking lot, which is currently used by the College’s students and by visitors to Riverfront Park. The lot features LED lighting and more than 130 trees, shrubs and bushes, making the area both aesthetically pleasing and sustainable.
Phases one and two were generously funded through a combination of public and private support, including the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Redevelopment Capital Program, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Community Block Development Grants, National Penn Bank, and private contributions made to the College’s Foundation.
The College is ready to begin work on the third and final phase of the project as soon as funding becomes available. These renovations will focus on the building’s interior, including the designing and furnishing the Interpretative Center, laboratory, classrooms, offices and student spaces.
A variety of sponsorship and funding opportunities are available to help bring the Riverfront Academic and Heritage Center project to fruition. To learn more, visit www.mc3.edu/giving or call the College’s Foundation at 215-641-6535.
“By investing in the Riverfront Academic and Heritage Center, you are investing in the economic prosperity of our community; in the education of future scientists, geologists historians, and geographers; and in the transformative impact that nature has on thousands of children and adults for generations to come,” Dr. Stout encouraged.