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Penn State Trustees OK Final Plans, Funding for Willard Building Overhaul, Henning Building Replacement

by on September 16, 2019 1:36 PM

Penn State's Board of Trustees on Friday approved final plans and funding for two construction projects at the University Park campus totaling nearly $150 million — the creation of a media center in part of the Willard Building and replacement of the College of Agricultural Sciences' Henning Building.

The new $48 million Donald P. Bellisario Media Center will transform the oldest part of the Willard Building, constructed in 1949, to become a hub for student media. Combined with the Carnegie Building across Pollock Road will be home to the Bellisario College of Communications.

Don Bellisario, a 1961 Penn State alumnus and legendary television producer, and his wife, Vivienne, gave a $30 million gift to the College of Communications in 2017 to support construction of the media center as well as scholarships and faculty endowments. It is one of the largest gifts in Penn State history.

When completed during the 2020-21 academic year, the media center is expected to benefit students in every major in the College of Communications and will have an open design to encourage collaboration. It will have state-of-the-art television and radio broadcast studios, the college's digital media agency, space for film and video creation, small-group spaces, faculty offices and a studio suite for the university's Office of Strategic Communications.

“The Bellisario Media Center will inspire students to perform at their very best while at Penn State, and it will prepare them to thrive within the kinds of media environments they will enter as professionals,” Dean Marie Hardin said in a news release. “The center will be, hands down, the most exciting place on campus for Penn State communications students and faculty. It will be a vital resource as we prepare the next generation of great digital storytellers.”

The Daily Collegian student newspaper will move its operations to the new facility. The Collegian long resided on campus but for the past 30 years was located in the James Building on South Burrowes Street in State College. With that building slated to be demolished and replaced with the Center for Innovation, Making and Learning, the Collegian has temporarily moved to Midtown Square on West Foster Avenue.

Several College of Communications units, including the Media Effects Laboratory, will be consolidated in the new center, along with operations that currently lease space at Innovation Park. The building also will have some faculty offices and work stations for the College of the Liberal Arts.

Site work will include an improved, accessible entrance on Pollock Road and replacement of aging utilities.

Virtual tour video by Studios Architecture

Henning Building Replacement

The 52-year-old Henning Building, located on Shortlidge Road between Curtin Road and Park Avenue, will be demolished and replaced with the new, $98.5 million Animal, Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences Building. 

The existing, 62,000-square-foot Henning Building had "a significant maintenance backlog," according to the university, and the building and infrastructure were no longer able to support the growing needs of the departments.

"With the constant risks to animal and human health posed by environmental toxins and pathogens — including invasive threats such as avian flu and African swine fever — and the need to maintain a safe and plentiful food supply, we must have the facilities that enable us to find solutions to some of our most vexing problems," Rick Roush, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences, said in a news release. 

The animal science and veterinary and biomedical sciences departments are complementary and their co-location provides opportunities for research collaboration, Roush said. To that end, while each department will have its own dedicated research space in the new building, the second and third floors will have "collaboration zones" with flexible lab space.

Plans also include a general purpose classroom, student work spaces, a seminar room and faculty offices. A new vivarium will support the university's animal management program.

A connector to the nearby Agricultural Sciences and Industries Building will have a study lounge and open conference areas and on the ground level the project includes new sidewalks and landscaping. 

The exterior of the building will be primarily brick, with punched openings for glass and the connector to the ASI Building will have a glass exterior. 

"It’s contextual," Maria Papacharalambous, of architect HOK, told State College Planning Commission in August. "It’s a pretty simple building but we feel like it fits the context and the environment pretty well."

Construction is expected to be completed in 2021.

An artist's rendering of the Animal, Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences Building, which will replace Henning Building at Penn State's University Park campus. Image courtesy Penn State/HOK 

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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