LEWISBURG, Pa. — Gov. Ed Rendell on Monday became the first recipient of the Bucknell University President's Medal for his support and commitment to more than $20 million of "town and gown" economic development projects in downtown Lewisburg and a $4 million rails-to-trails initiative. || See bookstore plans, construction photos and FAQs
Bucknell President Brian C. Mitchell presented the governor with the award during a ceremony at the Campus Theatre, one of several downtown buildings that will undergo renovations with the help of state grants and University funding. Other planned projects include improvements to a federal post office building and the historic Dewitt building, which Mitchell noted will be "pivotal" to the downtown economy.
"We know now the investment is worth it, but especially in a down economy fundraising at the state level is not easy," Mitchell said. "These projects would not have been possible without Gov. Rendell's backing — period."
Retail anchor Probably the most visible downtown revitalization project is a $10 million renovation and conversion of a historic building at the corner of Market and Fourth streets to a 29,000-square-foot Barnes & Noble Bucknell University bookstore. The bookstore, scheduled to open in August, is expected to establish a strong anchor for retail development, based on similar developments in other small college towns, Mitchell noted.
Other projects being pursued with the support of the commonwealth include the renovation of the historic Campus Theatre; conversion of the historic Dewitt Building to include retail space and the new Bucknell University Innovation Center; renovation of the top floors of the federal post office building at Market and Third streets to accommodate offices for up to 65 Bucknell employees; and a 10-mile rails- to-trails project that will connect Lewisburg and Mifflinburg with a bike and walking path.
Key to revitalization In accepting the president's award, Rendell, who took office as governor in 2003, said he is "a great believer in economic development" and commended Mitchell for his "bold vision" of bringing the town and University together through economic development.
"One of the things I pride myself on is, I try to look beyond the current year to five, 10, 15 or 20 years where I want the commonwealth to be," Rendell said. "President Mitchell had a bold vision" for these projects using the same long-term outlook.
Linda Sterling, chair of the Lewisburg Downtown Partnership, said bringing retail businesses downtown is key to the revitalization of the community. The downtown also serves as a draw to potential Bucknell faculty, staff and students.
"Bucknell University is downtown's best economic development partner, and downtown Lewisburg is the front porch for the community," Sterling said.
President's Medal The University's Board of Trustees in 2008 created the Bucknell University President's Medal to recognize individuals who have distinguished themselves through leadership, commitment and achievement in support of University initiatives.
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