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Grocery store building to become college campus

From selling produce to selling opportunity, one long-vacant grocery store building in Schuylkill County will soon be home to a new college campus.

POTTSVILLE, Pa. — Alvernia University is planting new seeds in downtown Pottsville. City officials said the Reading-based university has signed an agreement to purchase the old Giant grocery store building on Progress Avenue.

The university plans to transform the site into a small campus environment.

Mariah Bayliff used to shop at the grocery store, but she says the college could create more opportunities.

"I'm a college student myself, so I think education is a pretty high priority," she said.

Schuylkill Haven resident Matthew Santangelo welcomes more access to education.

"I think it's great for the young people coming out, especially graduating high school, to have somewhere in town to go to college," Santangelo said. "They closed the other college down here, so I think it would be great for people that are going to college and want to stay in town and want to stay locally."

The Alvernia University location in the Cressona Mall will close next summer, moving classes to the new facility.

With an expanded footprint, the university is also expanding its program offerings, with new Masters, Bachelors, and certificate programs.

The new campus will also feature a business incubator. Santangelo hopes some of those entrepreneurs will stick around.

"Open a business, do something with the education. Maybe it will help our town progress," Santangelo said.

City officials told Newswatch 16 the purchase is happening at the perfect time and in the perfect place, as Pottsville eyes new development. They're hopeful the college presence can stimulate businesses, bringing more people downtown to live, learn and work.

"If there's a college, girls come and everything," Santangelo said. "Without a doubt, it would bring more people out. Especially for the businesses. Everyone loves college towns."

Alvernia University is expected to offer its first downtown Pottsville classes in the summer of 2022.

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