Work on Temple University’s long-promised community education center is finally underway, after years of waiting by the local community.
Ground was broken on Nov. 8 for the 61,000 square foot center, which is being built on the lot at the corner of 15th St. and Cecil B. Moore Ave.
Due to be completed in January 2004, the center will house space for community functions, local schools, the University’s WRTI radio station, commercial space for retail and business and possibly a television broadcast facility.
“We want to maintain a consistent relationship with the local schools in an effort to produce an adequate education program for students in the community,” said Vice President of Operations William Bergman.
“With the construction of this facility we want to continue to contribute to the revitalization of Cecil B. Moore; the community welcomes it and is willing to work with us.
At the groundbreaking, the political leaders and business owners did nothing but applaud.”
While most of the community is optimistic about the new establishment, some residents of the area feel differently.
The center has been seven years coming.
The University had promised to build the center as a trade-off to blunt community opposition to the construction of the Liacouras Center in 1995.
“This just another way for Temple to make money off of our community,” said Reshay Shakir, who lives on the 1400 block of Cecil B. Moore Ave.
“I’m not sure if they give two cents about the residents around here.
They’ve added the community center to cover up the fact that they’re taking over our neighborhood. I know better.”
The original plan called for a building to be strictly used as a community center, but the design has been altered to include a restaurant and other retail shops on the first floor.
No specific retail establishments have been selected yet, but the space will be awarded to the highest bidder.
The other floors will be built and formatted for the specific groups involved.
The second floor of the educational center will include a computer lab, a “smart” classroom, a resource library, a reading lounge and a 60- 70-seat community meeting area.
There also will be space for after-school programs and a senior center.
“WRTI is finishing the layout for their office, which will include sound rooms and studio space,” said vice president of facilities management Robert Buchholz.
“A section will be added to the fourth floor to accommodate Temple’s television
station with high ceilings and track lighting for the filming studio.”
Construction for the estimated $16.1 million project is set to begin in January 2003 by the Gilbane construction firm.
The design, which is being handled by Timothy Hoahs and Associates Inc., has not been completed.
According to Buchholz, a system called fastracking is being used to speed the construction of the building while saving money.
“Although the design is 85 percent finished there are still changes that need to be made,” Buchholz said.
“With fastracking we start with an incomplete design and while the builders are working we finish the design for them so they can complete the building, saving money and time.”
This project is the final component of the development of Cecil B. Moore Ave.
Besides the Liacouras Center, the development included a parking garage and the Independence Blue Cross Recreation Center.
The plans for the revitalization project were put into place shortly before the end of Peter Liacouras’ Temple presidency.
Jennifer West can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org