An Innovation Corridor in Northeast Reading
In the last issue of The Reporter, I shared an update on the progress we have made toward our 2030 strategic vision goal, of which there are seven key themes to guide our work. One of those key themes is Albright’s role as an anchor institution in northeast Reading.
As the oldest institution of higher education in Berks County, Albright College has long educated students from middle- and working-class families. Northeast Reading, including the College Heights historical district, represents one of the very few areas in the city predominantly populated by a mix of middle- and upper-middle-class families. Some of you grew up in this area and are members of the 13th Street Gang for having attended kindergarten through college all on 13th street.
Today, almost half of Albright students are the first in their family to attend college, and a significant number are considered to be low income (based on Pell grant eligibility). In every year of the U.S. News and World Report ranking, Albright has ranked in the top 40 of all liberal arts colleges nationally for socio-economic mobility. Albright also receives national recognition for academic excellence and affordability, with high rankings from Princeton Review and Washington Monthly.
Beyond educating students for success in life and career, Albright College is a significant contributor to the vitality of Reading, Berks and the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
A 2018 study conducted by Parker Phillips estimated the annual economic impact of Albright College on the local and state economy to be $102.4M, supporting 1,094 jobs (direct, indirect and induced). This economic impact combined with the college’s cultural offerings— the Freedman Gallery, Lakin Holocaust and Resource Center, Nolan local history collection and Black Cultural Collection— places Albright as one of the long-serving anchor institutions in this valuable Reading neighborhood.
Albright’s vision for northeast Reading is as the Innovation Corridor, a destination and a community where residents live, work, learn and play. Albright is leading several key projects aimed at fulfilling this vision:
- Educational attainment and innovation development: To enhance Albright’s high-quality and affordable education, Albright has partnered the Science Research Institute and relocated it to our campus, making it much more accessible to Reading School District students. Albright has since purchased a “starter location” warehouse and has been successful in achieving multiple grants and appropriations to support the institution. And plans and fundraising are in progress to renovate Albright’s historic Leo Camp building into a state-of-the-art facility optimized for experiential learning, elite training, technological exploration and community engagement.
- Economic development: Economic development requires bringing foot and vehicular traffic to northeast Reading’s Innovation Corridor. Albright’s partnership with Nerd Street Gamers to construct a public esports facility on 13th Street, announced in January, is a substantial step forward in this evolution. The facility is anticipated to open by December 2023.
- Cultural and community development: Developing a neighborhood where people want to live, work, learn and play requires creating a cultural and community hub that attracts scholars, artists, researchers and community members. Albright’s planned new Student Success Commons and Library will be just that. Recently, Albright successfully competed for a $1 million grant from Berks County toward construction. The funding came from the county’s latest $18 million round of American Rescue Plan fund dispersion. This is a significant milestone for the college, bringing the total that Albright’s Advancement team has secured for this construction to $11.47 million, allowing Albright to move rapidly to the next phase of construction.
- Residence hall construction: The value of new and upgraded buildings cannot be overestimated. When Albright constructed the new Rockland Hall residence in 2017, the impact on the adjacent shopping center was immediate. That shopping center upgraded its façade and facilities and is now fully leased. Similarly, and to meet the needs of today’s Albright students, construction of a new residence hall at 12th and Exeter is ongoing, with a planned opening in June 2023.
These projects will create a new future for northeast Reading — a community where residents live, work, learn and play, and where students develop their creative skills, are innovative in their thinking and build their own companies.
Thank you for your ongoing support of Albright College and your continued engagement in our 2030 Strategic Vision. I invite you to visit our beautiful and growing campus, perhaps for Homecoming Weekend, Sept. 16-18.
Jacquelyn S. Fetrow, Ph.D. ’82
President and Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry