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On July 9, Lycoming College officially broke ground on the Krapf Gateway Center and initiated a multiphase project of historic significance. Executive Vice President Chip Edmonds ’98 opened the festivities, and speakers included Pennsylvania Secretary of Community and Economic Development Dennis Davin, Sen. Gene Yaw ’70 (R-23), Board Chair Stan Sloter ’80, and Mayor Gabriel Campana, Ed.D. As president, I had the honor of offering reflections and introducing our naming donors, Dale Krapf ’67 and Dallas Krapf ’13H.
A $12.5 million investment, the Krapf Gateway Center will house the Office of Admissions, Office of Alumni Relations, Center for Enhanced Academic Experiences, and the Center for Outdoor Leadership and Education, as well as a 202-seat modern presentation space, seminar rooms, and study rooms. As the construction of the building is completed, Franklin Street will be realigned and Basin Street converted into a beautiful two-way boulevard. Additional improvement to the public infrastructure will quickly follow. Millions of dollars to help finance these projects will come from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and we acknowledge the support of Sen. Yaw, his colleague Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-34), Rep. Jeff Wheeland (R-83), and Gov. Tom Wolf.
The Krapf Gateway Center and investments in infrastructure in the East End of Williamsport will open the door to an exciting future for the College and the neighborhood that surrounds it. It is important to understand, however, that the inspiration for this project has been drawn from the past, from an earlier era when a campus building known as Old Main towered over the homes and businesses of the sector of the City in which the College is located. During this time, the East End of Williamsport — this oldest section of the City — was filled with residences, businesses, churches, a railroad, and the students and faculty of Lycoming College. It was a bustling and prosperous place.
For more than a century, Old Main functioned as the center of campus; in its prime it was a multipurpose facility that housed administrative and faculty offices, faculty residences, classrooms, the chapel, library, dining areas, and dormitory rooms. In addition to its prominent role on the campus, Old Main was also the front door to the seminary and later the College. The steps on the south side of the building connected the campus to the thriving neighborhood in which the school was located. As we reached the middle of the 20th century, however, both Old Main and its surrounding neighborhood had fallen into a slow decline. In December 1968, the College demolished Old Main and an era came to an end; the College’s entrance no longer faced south or served as the physical point of connectivity to the City.
The groundbreaking ceremony that we held on July 9 represented the first step in resurrecting Williamsport’s East End and restoring it as a thriving residential and retail district. When the Krapf Gateway Center opens in the fall of 2019, the College’s main entrance will again face south toward the grand Susquehanna River, Bald Eagle Mountain, and the Old City of Williamsport. Like Old Main, this multipurpose building will become a physical manifestation of the College’s connectivity to the neighborhood and the City. Inspired by the past, we look with great anticipation toward the future.
Fundamental to the creation and execution of this compelling vision for the future have been the partnerships the College has forged with the City of Williamsport administration and City Council. PennDOT and the Williamsport Water and Sanitary Authorities have also become critical partners in executing the larger project. Local matching funds will be provided by Lycoming County, the First Community Foundation Partnership, and the Lycoming Economic Development Foundation. I thank the commissioners and the leadership of the two foundations for their support.
When the work is finished, in addition to the improvements to Franklin and Basin Streets, we will have new streetscape on East Third and Fourth Streets, a resurfaced East Third Street, improved water and sanitary systems in the East End, a green walkway along Willow Street, and an access to the Riverwalk at the mouth of Basin Street. We are confident that these infrastructure improvements will attract millions of dollars in private investment into the East End and that the area will again be filled with businesses and urban residences.
As Chair Sloter stressed in his remarks, the Krapf Gateway Center represents a strategic investment that will strengthen the College’s capacity to recruit students. Imagine a prospective family coming to Williamsport. They take the Basin Street exit and turn right onto Basin Street. At the corner of Basin and East Third Streets, they encounter a boulevard with appealing streetscape and Lycoming banners signaling that they have arrived at the College. They see mixed-use buildings on the left that include a coffee shop, bistro, and campus store. Pedestrians, including students, are walking along the street. As the family approaches Fourth Street, the stunning new building enters into the center of their vision. They turn, park, and walk a short distance to the entrance. Entering the building, they are standing in a three-story atrium with a climbing wall visible to the left and offices for Outdoor Leadership and Education to the right. The family will see students hanging out in the atrium, maybe even climbing the wall. An open staircase will take them to the second level where large windows showcase our beautiful and historic Upper Quad. On the right, they will see more students who are using the resources in the Center for Enhanced Academic Experiences. Signage lets them know that this Center is an integral part of Lycoming’s 21st-century liberal arts and sciences education and will help them secure internships, choose study abroad destinations, and collaborate with faculty on research. Another sign tells them that career advising is a critical part of the Center’s work. They now enter the Office of Admissions, having already formed a strong positive first impression of the College and our home in Williamsport.
As I close this letter, I want to express my heartfelt thanks to all the trustees and friends of the College who have made gifts totaling more than $5.5 million to support the construction of the Krapf Gateway Center. We are also benefitting from a $2 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and a $500,000 grant from the First Community Foundation that will be used for site work to make possible the realignment of Franklin Street and the creation of the Gateway Corner. During the coming year, we are hopeful of receiving another $1 million in pledges from our alumni and friends. Together, we have dared to dream, and we continue to build a Greater Lycoming!
Kent C. Trachte, Ph.D., is the 15th president of Lycoming College.