by Alana J. Mauger and Diane VanDyke
Montgomery County Community College held a dedication ceremony on May 10 for the recently completed parking lot at 140 College Drive in Pottstown. College President Dr. Karen A. Stout was joined by federal and state legislators, Environmental Protection Agency representatives, Montgomery County Commissioners, Pottstown Borough officials, and community leaders.
Renovation of the unimproved parking area is the first step toward expanding the College’s West Campus by transforming the three-acre Brownfield site and building at 140 College Drive into a state-of-the-art Riverfront Academic and Heritage Center. The site is conveniently located across the street from South Hall, one of two buildings that currently comprise the West Campus. The College secured ownership of site in April 2009 from the Borough of Pottstown.
The parking lot was completed in early May after a five-month process that included removing contaminated soil, installing underground drainage facilities, adding clean fill, installing a blacktop cap to protect the groundwater table, and constructing three bio-retention basins to capture stormwater runoff.
“The 140 College Drive parking lot is designed to be consistent with the College’s strategic focus on sustainability,” said Dr. Stout. “In 2007, we became one of the original institutions to sign the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment, pledging to reduce our carbon footprint. Since that time, we’ve made progress in updating our facilities and practices to become more green.”
The new lot has a capacity for 202 vehicles and features LED lighting, which reduces electrical consumption by up to 70 percent as opposed to standard, metal filament lamps. The placement of more than 130 trees, shrubs and bushes throughout the lot make the area both aesthetically pleasing and sustainable.
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.
“It’s no coincidence that the ribbon we’re cutting at today’s ceremony is green rather than the red color we traditionally use for such events,” said Dr. Stout. “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.”
U.S. Congressman James Gerlach praised the College for its continual investment in education and its ongoing commitment to the Borough of Pottstown and emphasized the importance of collaboration.
“Partnerships are important for completing projects like these,” Gerlach said. “I want to thank the College, the Borough, state legislators and Kurt Zwikl and the Schuylkill River Heritage Area for working together as a team to build such educational opportunities and improve the Pottstown community.”
The $1.2 million parking lot renovation was funded by a combination of sources, including a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a $500,000 Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, along with College funding. In addition, $37,500 from a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant will fund the installation of the lot’s LED lighting.
“We are delighted to celebrate the conclusion of the clean-up work,” said Kathryn Hodgkiss, director of the Middle-Atlantic Region’s Hazardous Site Cleanup Division of the federal Environmental Protection Agency. “Every Brownfield dollar spent on projects like this makes it clear to us that cleaning up and protecting the environment is also a great way to improve the economy.”
According to Dr. Stout, the development of 140 College Drive is necessary to accommodate the College’s unprecedented enrollment growth.
“West Campus enrollment has grown by more than 16 percent in the past year and currently stands at more than 2,500 students. Non-credit enrollment also continues to increase at the West Campus, growing by 46 percent in the past year,” she said.
Once project funding is secured, the Riverfront Academic and Heritage Center will provide space for four college classrooms equipped with SMART technology, a state-of-the-art laboratory that will support the College’s new Environmental Science degree program, and an interpretive center that will provide educational, historic and tourist information about the Schuylkill River Heritage Area (SRHA).
Pennsylvania Senator John C. Rafferty, a supporter of the College and champion of this project, expressed the importance of the College’s new Environmental Science program.
“Students will receive a first-rate education with this environmental program,” he said, indicating that the students will learn how to protect the vital water system, clean up the environment and keep it pristine for future generations.
However, completion of the building requires funding, as noted by James R. Matthews, chairperson of the Montgomery County Commissioners.
“The College is one of the greatest attributes to the County, which is the economic bread basket of the state,” Matthews said. “For this project, we need about $2.5 million. That amount is small considering what the College will provide.”
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.