Thursday, February 2, 2012

Getting Green, Down By the River

Those familiar with Pottstown's Riverfront Park are, most likely, also familiar with the brick building which stands near its College Drive entrance.

Once a PECO sub-station, the building has, for some time, been the headquarters for the Schuylkill River National and State Heritage Area, which occupies the front half of the structure.

Originally purchased by Pottstown Borough for this purpose, the rear half of the building has gone unused, but not un-valued.

When the borough sold the building to Montgomery County Community College, it became obvious that the college's Pottstown campus is expanding on both sides of the trail tracks which run alongside the main campus building.

Today, an old-fashioned ribbon-cutting is being held to celebrate the second phase of the rehabilitation of the rear half of that building, bringing it one step closer to opening as the center for the college's environmental science program.

(I can't be there to cover it because I am instead spending my evening -- again -- with the ever-decisive Pottstown School Board.)

But according to the information provided last week by MCCC's Alana Mauger, this building will be pretty green when it's finished.

The completion of "phase II" being celebrated  replaces the building leaking roof, with an eco-friendly "green" roof and energy efficient windows. In fact the building is being designed to meet LEED specifications.

(LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is the measure by which environmental friendliness of buildings is measured these days.)

Once complete, the building will incorporate a variety of sustainable adaptions in keeping with the college's sustainability efforts. They will include indirect lighting, passive heating, and the afore-mentioned green roof, which will also be equipped with photo voltaic cells to generate electricity from sunlight.

Here is a blog (hosted on The Mercury's Town Square blog site, where this blog also lives) that provides updates on MC3's sustainability efforts.

The cost of phase II was $1.2 million, including funding from Pennsylvania's Redevelopment Assistance Capital program, Community Development Block Grants, the college's foundation, HUD, National Penn Bank and nearly $600,000 from the college itself.

The project's first phase, completed in March 2010 at a cost of $1.3 million, was primarily focused on the parking lot and required the removal of contaminated fill, and the installation of drainage facilities and bio-retention basins for the frequently flooded site, that captures stormwater run-off and returns it to the groundwater table. That project also featured, LED lighting, which reduced electrical consumption by 70 percent over standard lighting, and the planting of 130 trees, shrubs and bushes.

A final phase, at another $2.1 million, will focus on the building's interior, which will house an interpretive center, laboratory, classrooms, offices, as well as exterior landscaping consistent with the borough's effort to create a pedestrian promenade which forges a link between Riverfront Park, the Schuylkill River Trail and downtown Pottstown.

This project is "shovel ready," although all the funding is not yet secured.

However, the heritage area has already secured nearly $200,000 from the National Park Service for the interpretive center; nearly $16,000 from its board of directors, as well as $87,000 from the PA Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources and $30,000 from Martin Foundation and another $10,000 from National Penn Bank.

This project is yet another example of the community college's remarkable growth -- a 60 percent enrollment increase in the last five years -- making it one of the fastest growing community college's in the nation.

In addition to showcasing the importance to the region of the history and ecology of the Schuylkill River, the building's interpretive center will promote local attractions to those using the burgeoning trail system.

The portion housing the college's environmental science program, will provide an educational direction that matches the growing demand in this field.

The state-of-the art classrooms and laboratory will be used to teach geology, geography, environmental sciences and geographic information systems.

Not only will this help the town in general, helping to make Pottstown "a college town" as fellow blogger and Pottstown stalwart Ron Downie likes to say, it will also provide our town's students with an increasing impressive array of low-cost college credits at a time when the costs of college are rising further and further out of reach of middle class Americans.


  1. My Dear God, thank you for answering my prayers. I have prayed loud and clear that writers use the phrase " a college town " when they write Pottstown ( a college town ) in the body of their piece.
    Having a college in our town is a win/ win for this college town, Pottstown, and we must capitalize on MCCC being here. The easiest way to do this is by using the tag line all the time and by making it a habit to always include it.
    From Pottstown, a college town, I am Ron Downie.

  2. Having the college here in Pottstown is a fantastic opportunity for our children. My daughter attended Montco during her senior year at Pottstown. She was part of the Dual enrollment program. She is now a West Chester Graduate. Montco gave her a head start. Mr. Downie, I could not agree more.