Penn State

Penn State trustees set to approve nearly $150 million in capital projects

Construction at the Willard Building

The Willard Building on the Penn State campus is under construction.
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The Willard Building on the Penn State campus is under construction.

The Penn State Board of Trustees is set to approve nearly $150 million in capital projects.

In a committee meeting for finance, business and capital planning Thursday morning, trustees voted unanimously to expend $146.5 million for two building projects, which are set for full board approval on Friday.

The Henning Building, for which State College Borough Planning Commission approved the final design plan in August, is currently undergoing a demolition and rebuild totaling $98.5 million.

Originally built in 1967, the Henning Building houses the Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Science and the Department of Animal Science. The new building, said Office of the Physical Plant Associate Vice President Bill Sitzabee, is designed “to afford better synergy between the two programs.”

Crews will outfit the new building with new mechanical systems, windows and elevators. Changes to the interior include a large lobby area near the main entrance, administrative offices, student workstations, flexible labs and a large vivarium, said Sitzabee.

“The first phase of the project included abatement and demolition activities on the interior and exterior of the building,” said a Penn State Office of the Physical Plant spokesman last month. “The full structural demolition of the Henning Building will begin in late September followed by the new building foundation excavation work.”

The project is slated for completion in late 2021, he said.

Trustees also authorized $48 million in funds to renovate the 60,000 square foot Willard Building, originally built in 1949. The renovated building will house the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, encompassing advertising and public relations, film-video, journalism, media studies, telecommunications and student media.

The ground floor will house the media center, production studio, screening rooms, offices and collaborative spaces, said Sitzabee. The Media Effects Research Lab will move from the James Building, which is slated for demolition and rebuild, to the first floor of Willard, joining teaching and research spaces and office spaces.

The second floor will include the new offices of The Daily Collegian, other student media, broadcast studios, an audio lab, teaching spaces and a teaching and communications suite, he said. Certain College of Liberal Arts offices will move back into the building on the third floor from the swing spaces where they’re currently located.

A new feature coming to Willard is a “really high tech” blackbox room which will be used for video and film production with green screen needs, said Sitzabee.

The original facade will be preserved for the entrance on Pollock Road, he said.

Funds for the project come from a $30 million gift from Penn State alumnus and media mogul Donald Bellisario, borrowing, unit funds and cash reserves, he said.

“Early in the semester, students will notice continuing demolition activities that are necessary prior to the start of new construction. This will be followed by the structural steel infill at the open portion of the ‘U’ at the back of the building,” said an OPP spokesman last month.

The project is expected to finish in late 2020.

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Sarah Paez covers Centre County communities, government and town and gown relations for the Centre Daily Times. She studied English and Spanish at Cornell University and grew up outside of Washington, D.C.
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