LEWISBURG, Pa. -- Bucknell University officials joined Lewisburg Borough and business representatives in a public forum on campus Tuesday to discuss the Lewisburg Core Community Initiative, a plan to develop Bucknell properties on Market Street and in the "gateway neighborhood" that connects campus and the downtown commercial district.

Bucknell's proposed development downtown will add jobs, investment, and the kind of foot traffic that is essential to the success of the downtown area. -- Linda Sterling, executive director of the Lewisburg Downtown Partnership

The goal of the Lewisburg Core Community Initiative is to help maintain Lewisburg’s charm and economic viability in a way that is consistent with the area’s quality of life, said Charlie Pollock, Bucknell's vice president for External Relations. Helping the downtown community thrive also benefits the University as it works to attract and retain top students and faculty.

The information and question-and-answer session held in the forum gallery in the Elaine Langone Center also included Lewisburg Mayor Judy Wagner; Linda Sterling, executive director of the Lewisburg Downtown Partnership; and Randy Maslow, owner of the downtown business Dwellings.

Vibrant downtown
"Working together, we can accomplish a lot more," said Wagner, adding that the Lewisburg's mutually beneficial partnership with Bucknell has helped the Borough maintain a strong, vibrant downtown and pursue greater improvements.

As part of the Lewisburg Core Community Initiative, Bucknell is considering moving administrative office space and at least some of its bookstore operations to Market Street, creating a regional arts center that would include the Campus Theatre, and supporting the re-conversion of some student rental properties to owner-occupied homes in the Bull Run Gateway Neighborhood. The University also is developing plans for a Bucknell inn and conference center that would likely be placed on the edge of campus near downtown.

As previously announced, Bucknell has commissioned surveys of two properties at 400 and 416 Market St. to determine their suitability for the possible development of a University bookstore, office space for fundraising staff, and retail space for local businesses. Depending on the results of the surveys, the University will consider purchasing the properties for these purposes.

Stronger customer base
Sterling
, with the Lewisburg Downtown Partnership, said that while downtown Lewisburg has been fortunate in having zero store vacancies over the past several years, many of the businesses need a stronger customer base. "There's more work to be done" to ensure their stability, she said.

Bucknell's proposed development downtown would add jobs, investment, and the kind of foot traffic that is essential to the success of the downtown area, Sterling said.

Bucknell and the Borough also announced this past week that they will partner to improve the quality and safety of off-campus student rental housing by enforcing regular inspections of those properties.

Annual inspections
Lewisburg properties licensed as rentals are required to have current annual inspections. But many student rental properties and public housing units have not been inspected annually as required by the Borough’s agreement with the Central Keystone Council of Governments (COG).

Bucknell is considering ways to supplement the COG's efforts if the agency is unable to keep up with the inspections, including identifying third-party inspectors or possibly increasing the University's annual voluntary contribution to the COG. The goal is to update all inspections by July 15. 

The University also is preparing to launch an "Off-Campus Living" Web site for students, parents, landlords, and others to use as a resource for finding appropriate rentals and becoming familiar with the policies pertaining to living off-campus.

Listing rental properties
Landlords will be able to list their rental properties on the site, and each listing will indicate if the property's annual inspection is current.

Bucknell also is planning to implement an off-campus housing certification program in phases beginning in fall 2009. For a property to be available for Bucknell students to rent, the landlord would have to certify that it meets a set of safety standards that the University is establishing, including annual inspections. Once this program is in place, uncertified properties will not be listed on the Web site.

The Board of Trustees decided in November that by 2013 Bucknell will limit to 200 the number of students permitted to live off-campus, compared with the approximately 380 who will be allowed to live off-campus next year. Board policy had previously stipulated that, effective 2013, no Bucknell students would be permitted to live in off-campus housing.

The University's facilities plans include constructing more on-campus housing by 2013.

Contact: Division of Communications

Posted April 22, 2008

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