College projects in the works
Lafayette College provides updates on student housing, a new restaurant, pedestrian improvements and a scenic overlook.
Lafayette College officials will start installing the structural steel skeleton of the college’s 165-bed, mixed-use student residence hall on McCartney Street next week.
While it’s Lafayette most visible project, the dormitory isn’t the only development residents of Easton will notice in the coming months.
There are also plans for a restaurant at the base of College Hill on North Third Street, proposed by the owner of Don Juan Mex Grill; a new hub for the Easton Emergency Squad in the former Rineck Rope Company on Bushkill Drive, and a new building with ground-floor retail and apartments on the upper floors to replace a collegeowned home that was demolished in the 100 block of Cattell Street.
Also proposed are a scenic overlook above downtown Easton with seating to replace four Lafayette-owned houses at 156, 160, 166 and 168 College Avenue, and pedestrian improvements at the base of College Hill on North Third Street.
Lafayette recently completed its $75 million Rockwell Integrated Science Center, which will be open to students when classes start Monday.
Long-term, the college wants to increase its student population by 400 over the next eight years, which means adding more student beds, but also amenities to help the college attract new students.
College officials discussed those projects and other goals during a community update Wednesday night at the Hugel Science Center on campus.
“We want to be appealing to the students of the future in a very competitive environment and we want to have the resources to support them,” Lafayette College President Alison Byerly told the crowd.
“It’s been a difficult time for higher education,” she said, noting the number of high school students going to college has decreased and smaller colleges across the country have had difficulty attracting new students.
If Lafayette can grow its student population, it will be able to provide financial aid for those who would otherwise be unable to afford the school’s tuition.
This school year will welcome a class of 700 incoming freshmen.
“That’s exactly the number we were looking for, but it’s very important that we look at the education and experience we offer to stay competitive,” Byerly said.
In addition, Lafayette set up a Easton Community Partners group, though Byerly said the group will not meet to specifically discuss College Hill, which some members of the crowd were anticipating.
The group, which includes city officials and members of the community, will convene for the first time in mid-September. Members will talk about citywide issues and how the college can be involved, Byerly said.
Some members of the audience asked about Lafayette’s purchases of property on College Hill and how the community can be updated of those evolving plans.
“When we have acquired property, it is because it is strategically located where we think faculty and staff would want to have housing,” Byerly said. “I think we have been pretty straightforward that it has been for the purpose of housing. We don’t have any blocks of property that we intend to use for any other use.”
Coming to College Hill
A restaurant: Located in a former student nightclub The Spot, across from William C. Buck Hall arts center, said Lafayette’s Vice President for Finance and Administration Roger Demareski. The project is proposed by the owner of Don Juan Mex Grill.
Rinek Rope: The college owns the historic factory on Bushkill Drive and intends to restore it for its facility support department. It will also include a civil engineering lab and a second
station for the Easton Emergency Squad, which has its headquarters on Packer Street on the South Side. North Third Street pedestrian improvements: Lafayette College and the city received two grants worth $4.5 million. They will be used to make pedestrian improvements along Cattell Street and at the base of College Hill. Plans include new lighting, sidewalks and curbs. There will be a median island installed at North Third Street near William C. Buck Hall to make for safer pedestrian crossing. 100 block of Cattell Street:
This single-family home on the corner of Cattell and Clinton Terrace was in poor condition when the college acquired it and was recently demolished, Demareski said. There are plans to replace it with a similar size building that would have ground-floor retail and apartments above, though it’s not yet clear how many units.
Student housing: Structural steel will start going up next week for Lafayette’s 165-bed, mixed-use residence hall on McCartney Street. The development, which will include a diner on the corner of March and McCartney streets and a bookstore on the corner of High Street, will be finished next fall.
It is the first phase of student housing planned over the next eight years.
The second phase would be constructed on McCartney Street between March Street and Clinton Terrace.
A third phase would replace existing dormitories at Watson Courts.
There is no set timeline for the next two phases of student housing, Demareski said. In total, there would be 400 new student beds by the time all three projects are finished.
Lafayette College is in the process of tearing down four homes at the entrance of College Hill. The homes are at 156, 160, 166 and 168 College Ave. A scenic overlook above downtown Easton, with seating, is proposed to replace the houses.