Alvernia Eyes Downtown Pottsville Location to Expand CollegeTowne Concept
Alvernia University is actively seeking a property in downtown Pottsville to expand its student offerings and introduce its CollegeTowne concept here.
According to an exclusive conversation we had Monday with Alvernia President John Loyack, the Reading-based school plans to purchase a property in downtown Pottsville and have it up and running in a year as its next CollegeTowne project.
“We are actively seeking a downtown location and are very close to signing a Letter of Intent (to purchase a property),” Loyack says.
Loyack could not disclose which property the school is looking to obtain but hopes to have more information on that by the end of this week. He tells us that the goal is to move out of its current location at Cressona Mall in a year. Alvernia recently renewed its lease for one year at the mall.
When complete, Alvernia’s new campus promises to be a boon for downtown Pottsville.
“It’s really an attractive downtown,” Loyack says. “Students bring foot traffic and vibrancy. We’re looking for a space to build out programs, build out the student experience.”
Alvernia Plans for Pottsville CollegeTowne
Until the ink is dry on that Letter of Intent, lips are somewhat sealed on the details of this project. But we did learn the basics of what Pottsville CollegeTowne will be and what it will offer.
The first logical question is: What is CollegeTowne?
Earlier this year, Alvernia launched Reading CollegeTowne, essentially a downtown addition to its main campus there. It’s located at 401 Penn St., a property Alvernia purchased and is renovating as part of a $20 million construction project. Reading CollegeTowne is expected to open this summer.
Pottsville’s version, like Reading’s, will feature classroom space and a new business incubator.
While the Pottsville CollegeTowne project doesn’t call for any student housing as it does in Berks County, it will be Alvernia’s new home in Schuylkill County, with all its classrooms located on their property.
The idea behind CollegeTowne is very business-centric. Not only will an incubator help develop new entrepreneurs, Loyack says he hopes the Pottsville campus will created skilled graduates that can help “close the gap” on talent needed by local businesses. He stressed expansion in the healthcare study fields, including nursing and social work, at the Pottsville location.
Alvernia Business Incubator in Pottsville
Loyack says Alvernia’s incubator concept aims to turn its entrepreneurial students into business “fellows” and it’ll be available to existing small businesses, too. It helps would-be and current entrepreneurs develop a product or service and test its market-readiness. The incubator, tapping into Alvernia’s network in the private sector, can also get entrepreneurs in front of investors.
“They’re trained over a summer in project management, business plan development, and a whole series of information developing processes to help entrepreneurs. They’re surrounded by our faculty,” he says. “It’s really focused on students developing ideas. An entrepreneur fails for no other reason that market acceptance. We surround them with people who have the skill sets to help them navigate everything else.”
Loyack says of the 70 businesses currently at the Reading CollegeTowne incubator, about 50% are new entrepreneurs and up to 30% are existing small businesses.
“It really is a comprehensive network of experts to help businesses get going,” Loyack says. “That’s what we’ll be bringing to Pottsville. We need more space to do it in.”
Partnership with Pottsville Nursing School
Part of the new academic offerings at Pottsville CollegeTowne will be an expansion of the Joseph F. McCloskey School of Nursing. Loyack says Alvernia will be offering 4-year nursing degrees thanks to this new partnership.
“That’s what really has us looking for a new place to expand and grow into,” Loyack says.