In October, President Patrick Leahy announced that Wilkes would undergo the creation of a 3.5 million dollar project, to be started in May 2017 and completed by Fall 2018.
The project would be a “South Campus Gateway,” not dissimilar to the East Campus Gateway, completed in the Spring of 2016, which connects S. Main Street to the heart of Wilkes campus.
According to a press release issued by Senator John Yudichak, Wilkes will receive $1 million from the Transportation Alternative Program, administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, for the new gateway, which will connect The Henry Student Center to Stark Learning Center and then turn a corner to S. Franklin St.
At the press conference where President Leahy announced the project, he stated that it would provide safety, alleviate traffic congestion, improve aesthetics and benefit Downtown Wilkes-Barre community at-large.
“These are funds that may not otherwise come to downtown Wilkes-Barre, if not for a private institution’s match,” Leahy added at the conference. “I think this demonstrates, quite effectively, the continuing power of public/ private partnerships in the effort to continue to develop our fine city.”
“This is a prime example of how we can harness colleges and universities to invest in our communities,” said Senator John Yudichak. He stated that it would be the next “phase” of a project, which includes the first east campus gateway, that “has revitalized downtown Wilkes-Barre into an economic hub and a thriving residential community for the city and Luzerne County.”
“Pennsylvania has some difficult financial choices in the coming months, but we cannot simply cut our way to a balanced budget,” said Senator Yudichak. “Instead, we have a responsibility to financially support projects that will improve the local economy and help us attract and retain a new generation of students to Luzerne County.”
In addition to the money granted by the program, Wilkes University will contribute $300,000 to the construction of the gateway.
“This project makes visible Wilkes’ ongoing commitment to the community surrounding our campus,” Leahy said in regard to the grant. “We are pleased to be in a position to pay the match required for a TAP grant, allowing Wilkes to make investments in our city and county where we can make the most impact.”
In addition to new sidewalks and lights, the grant will also pay for curb ramps and planting trees, as well as other improvements meant to enhance Wilkes campus and promote new business development in the community.
Mayor Tony George is excited about the project. “With this funding secured in the downtown, the city can continue to expand opportunities into other neighborhoods of the city so that the resurgence of the downtown will spread to every part of Wilkes-Barre,” he said.
When the gateway was announced in the fall, George spoke in depth about the ways in which the City of Wilkes-Barre and Wilkes University are codependent. He said even then that the entire city would benefit from the campus renovations.