College breaks ground for gateway building

CARA MORNINGSTAR/Sun-Gazette Slate Sloter, Lycoming College board of trustees chairman, speaks during the gateway project groundbreaking ceremony at Lycoming College in Williamsport on Monday.

Ground was broken Monday for Lycoming College’s new $10.6 million gateway building, which is being named after two brothers who graduated from the college.

Dr. Kent Trachte, college president, introduced those gathered on the lawn of the Mary Welch Honors Hall to brothers Dale and Dallas Krapf and then surprised the crowd by saying they were looking toward the site of the new Krapf Gateway Building, which will be constructed near the corner of East Fourth and Franklin streets.

Construction is beginning immediately and is expected to be completed in 2019, he said.

After years of discussion among the trustees about the need for a gateway building, Dale Krapf, a Lycoming trustee, took a road trip to New England to get a feel for what colleges in that region look like. On the road trip were his brother Dallas Krapf and Trachte.

“We could do better at Lycoming,” Krapf recalled thinking at the time.

The gateway building will be the first place prospective students and their parents and family will see of the college.

It will look toward the Old City as did the former Old Main, an original building on campus when it was Dickinson Seminary in the 19th century.

College officials said the facility should become a focal point for the college campus and a catalyst for growth in the city’s East End.

Visiting from Harrisburg, Dennis Davin, secretary of the state Department of Community and Economic Development, contrasted the blocks west of Market Street with the business district in the east, noting many empty lots and shuttered store fronts.

“It was an area to drive through on the way to the Golden Strip,” Davin said, noting the Wolf administration provided $2 million in Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program funding for the first phase of the project.

The 31,250-square-foot building will house numerous academic and recreational activities for students while serving as the centerpiece of a connecting corridor that will eventually link the college to the Beltway and the Susquehanna Riverwalk.

The first phase of the multi-year project will involve moving the college’s main entrance to face south toward what is being called the Old City neighborhood. Hopes are for the project to spur development in the surrounding neighborhood.

“I am excited for the revitalization of the area near campus, which will forge deeper connections between the college and the city,” Trachte said. “We are excited and confident that this project will leverage even greater support for the revitalization of this part of the city of Williamsport.”

Stan Sloter, chair of the college trustees, said the building should provide a “sense of place” where students learn, grow and prepare for lives of significance.

State Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, said it is relevant that the city is a “college town,” with more than 7,000 students between Lycoming College and the Pennsylvania College of Technology.

“We have to find a way to take advantage of that for the community,” Yaw said.

Alumni, friends and trustees contributed $6.5 million toward the building.