Wilkes University formally dedicated its new $1.7 million Gateway – which joins the heart of campus with South Main Street — in a ceremony that kicked off its annual Homecoming weekend on Oct. 2. The dedication, attended by faculty, staff, students, alumni and elected officials, celebrated the completion of a project that opens a new era for the University.
“The Gateway underscores our efforts to support the revitalization of downtown Wilkes-Barre. At the same time, it physically unites our campus, enhancing its beauty as a green oasis in an urban setting,” said University President Patrick F. Leahy. “Supporting the city and improving our campus infrastructure are two of our strategic initiatives.”
In dedicating the Gateway, the University recognized Clayton Karambelas, a 1949 Wilkes graduate, and his wife, Theresa, for their gift to the University which helped to pay for the project. A PennDOT multi-modal grant of $600,000 also provided funding for the Gateway.
In discussing his reasons for supporting the project, Clayton Karambelas said, “Wilkes has been a very important part of my life since I first stepped foot on campus as a student. Theresa and I are proud to give back to this institution and the students who live and learn here. This beautiful gateway is a visible symbol of the vitality of our community, both here at Wilkes and in downtown Wilkes-Barre.”
Speakers at the ceremony included state Sen. John Yudichak, state Rep., Eddie Day Pashinski, who is a 1967 Wilkes graduate, and Wilkes-Barre Mayor Thomas M. Leighton. Other speakers were Kathy Dunsmuir, who delivered remarks on behalf of the Karambelases, and Wilkes Student Government President Anthony Fanucci.
Yudichak praised the Gateway project for its positive impact on the city of Wilkes-Barre, saying, “This Gateway welcomes every visitor to campus while opening a whole new window on the promise of a new Wilkes-Barre. A Wilkes-Barre with vibrant colleges that can transform our neighborhoods and grow jobs in our downtown.”
Echoing Yudichak’s sentiments, Leighton thanked the University for its support.
“In the past decade, the city of Wilkes-Barre experienced an extraordinary revitalization with the development a fully functional downtown that has become a home to many workers, residents, and students,” Leighton said. “We were thrilled that Wilkes University contributed to this revival by expanding operations to the South Main Street business district over the past few years. The university is committed to improving our city one project at a time, and this latest development truly adds a remarkable aesthetic in this section of the district. Dr. Leahy shares our vision by believing in the concept of seizing opportunities, such as the Gateway expansion project, that create a safer environment for students and the community as a whole.”
Noting Wilkes’ planning process in revitalizing its campus, Pashinski said, “As a proud Wilkes graduate, I am amazed at the University’s constant efforts to improve. Their operation, their vision, plan design, and execution of academic, physical and aesthetic improvements have been exciting and inspiring. They have prudently managed their resources and the state’s contributions to enhance the quality of life for their students, faculty, staff, the city of Wilkes-Barre City and our entire community. I am proud to stand with them in their efforts and I wish them continued success as they move forward with great vigor.”
Ground was broken for the Gateway in April 2015 with the bulk of the work completed by the start of classes in late August. The project includes a 14-foot-wide, well-lit pedestrian walkway between the University Center on Main and 141 S. Main St. The walkway extends across South Franklin St. into the center of the University’s Fenner Quadrangle. It includes 11 new LED streetlights, bicycle racks, benches and a decorative clock. The Gateway is landscaped with 20 new trees and more than 1,000 plants and shrubs. Architects for the project were Derck and Edson of Lititz, Pa. Construction was coordinated by Sordoni Construction Management.
Pedestrian safety features include two pedestrian crosswalks – one on South Main Street and a raised crosswalk on South Franklin Street between Northampton and South streets – will include flashing yellow traffic signals.
Streetscape improvements to the building at 141 S. Main St., while not part of the Gateway project, were completed at the same time. They include installation of new sidewalks and a complete renovation and updating of that building’s façade.