Monday, March 29, 2010

Lafayette Students To Present to City Council on Economic Viability of Governor Wolf Athenaeum Project

Bell tower of the Governor Wolf Building on 2nd Street

Posted by: Noel Jones

There is a cultural arts project that I have been keeping my eye on for a few years now, that I feel enthusiastic about because of its well-planned, thoughtful process, its potential to be an economic driver for our city, and its relatively low price tag: The Governor Wolf Athenaeum. On Thursday, April 1st, from 5-7pm, a team of Lafayette students and faculty who have completed a study for the Governor Wolf Athenaeum Group, will be presenting their findings on the proposed project at City Hall during a reception and image exhibition--the nice thing about this study, was that it was done in partnership with the college at no expense to taxpayers. All residents are invited to attend this event, which will be co-hosted by Mayor Panto and Edward Gamber, professor and head of economics at Lafayette. I am really happy to see the mayor take an interest in this project.

What is an Athenaeum? It is a cultural center for the study of arts and culture designed after the original Greek model. The idea is to have one building, a central place in the community, that provides arts and culture education and entertainment to all residents--children and adults--enriching us as citizens, while also serving as an attraction to visitors who will enrich our local businesses with their patronage.

Through the college's Economic Empowerment and Global Learning Project (EEGLP), the group has been working closely with residents of Easton to study the economic feasibility of

transforming the city's Governor Wolf building into a community center for arts and cultural activities.

"I am personally very pleased with the final product," says EEPLG founder Gladstone Fluney Hutchinson, associate professor of economics. "I think it well represents the abilities of our students, and more importantly, it accurately captures Easton's own re-imagining and re-framing of itself as an attractive economic, cultural and residential location." The study estimates that if the Athenaeum could attract 100,000 visitors to Easton, it would produce approximately $5.3 million in new local output, and create 70 new jobs. 

Considering Crayola already brings in 250,000 visitors a year, this sounds promising to me. Those visitors are likely to attend events at the athenaeum while in town, and the cultural center would draw visitors of its own. The Philadelphia Museum of Art has already issued a letter of support for the project, by offering to exhibit parts of its permanent collection in the museum portion planned for the building, provided the building is brought up to museum security and environmental standards.

The Governor Wolf Athenaeum Group is a resident-driven project dedicated to the preservation of this historic building, and the Governor Wolf Building is one of Easton's finest. Unlike other historic buildings in the area, it is structurally in terrific shape. The County currently uses the building to house its offices, but has been in discussions with the group to discuss the County's desire to relocate and consolidate all offices in one headquarters near Gracedale.

I will definitely be attending this presentation, and I hope many other residents will too, as it will be really cool to see the images exhibited on the walls, and to hear some potentially great news for Easton's future!


Anonymous said...

Sal Panto says:
Thank you for posting. Invitations are going out to elected officials this week but I am really encouraging the residents to attend. The presentation will be first-class and the report they submitted is a great starting point for bringing this project to fruition. With the calibre of artists and art-lovers we have in this community I know it can be successful

One correction, Two Rivers Landing (Crayola and the National Canal Museum) attracted 310,000 visitors last year and the State Theatre attracted more than 120,000. Add to the list the Sigal Museum opening this year and the Sports Hall of Fame next year we will continue to attract visitors to our community which will create more jobs for our residents and more tax dollars to decrease our constant dependence on property taxes.

With our neighborhood housing programs and de-conversion incentives (more to be announced next week) we can and will become a city with fine neighborhoods and diversity and a thriving central business district.

And its the people that make it happen.

noel jones said...

Mayor Panto--thank you for posting and for the correct information. I am very excited to hear about these deconversion incentives too--this is all good news.

Julie Zando-Dennis said...

Went to the presentation and was impressed. The Governor Wolf building is a jewel of downtown Easton, and this project would capitalize on the building's architecture and prime location to the benefit of Easton residents and businesses.

Carinne said...

I believe this is one of the most exciting ideas I have heard of for Easton. When I visited an Ansel Adams exhibit at the Michener Museum in Bucks County a few years ago I remember thinking about how it would be great to have a similar place to visit in Easton. After seeing the presentation by the students of Lafayette, I think this center has the potential to be even better. I particularly love the idea of an ice-skating rink outside... fun.

noel jones said...

I recently met with Fluney Hutchinson, the econ professor that led the student internship, and offered to do a similar presentation for the community in the West Ward, which is terrific since programming will ultimately designed around input from residents. I will be finding a venue soon and announcing this on the blog...stay tuned!