Penn State Submits Final Plans for New Liberal Arts Research and Teaching Building –

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Design rendering of the Liberal Arts Research and Teaching Center planned near Fischer Road on Penn State’s University Park campus. Image by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson
Penn State expects to begin construction this summer on a new six-story Liberal Arts Research and Teaching Center at the University Park campus.
State College Planning Commission reviewed last week the final land development plan for the 142,622 square foot building, which will be located on the current site of a parking lot between Mateer and Ford buildings along Fischer Road.
The university’s Board of Trustees will first need to approve final plans and expenditure of funds before construction begins. When the project was introduced in 2019 and the board appointed Bohlin Cywinski Jackson as project architect, the estimated cost was $113 million to be funded primarily through state capital budget allocations.
When completed in the fall of 2024, the new building will be home to three departments, three institutes and research centers and two schools. The sociology and criminology department, Population Research Institute and Criminal Justice Research Center will move to the LART Center from Oswald Tower. The political science department, School of Public Policy and McCourtney Institute for Democracy will relocate from Pond Lab. The anthropology department will move from Carpenter Building, and the School of International Affairs will move from the Katz Building.
“This new space will create dynamic learning opportunities for our students, spur even more innovative research encompassing an array of disciplines among our faculty, and strengthen the college’s reputation as one of the premier liberal arts institutions in the country,” Clarence Lang, dean of the College of the Liberal Arts, said when the project was announced in 2019. “Most Penn State students regardless of their major take nearly one-third of their classes in the liberal arts, so it’s safe to say that nearly every Penn State student will benefit in some way from the construction of this new building.” 
After the LART Center opens, Penn State plans to demolish Oswald Tower and likely replace it with green space between Pond Lab and Burrowes Building.
The 85-foot tall building — which will have an exterior of brick, limestone and glazed window wall systems — will house classrooms, research and instructional laboratories, museum space, faculty and graduate student offices, and administrative support areas.
Mark Saville, of project engineer HRG, told the planning commission that all walkways and building entries will be fully ADA accessible, with elevator access to every floor.
The design will feature several health and safety measures spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, including automatic doors, contact-free restroom entries, touchless restroom fixtures and a ventilation system provides 100% outdoor air in the labs and museum spaces.
It will be constructed under Penn State guidelines to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification and will utilize the university’s new reuse water system. High-efficiency aluminum windows and curtain wall systems will make maximum use of natural light and the roof is designed to accommodate a future solar array
Landscaping will focus “on native and naturalized species that are highly adaptable and require minimum maintenance,” Saville said. Trees throughout the Park Avenue corridor will be maintained, along with additional screen and landscape plantings
Bicycle racks will be located at the east and west entrances of the building, in addition to covered bike spots at the Nittany Deck. Pathways connecting to the LART Center fit within the campus pedestrian/bicycle network.
Stormwater runoff will be managed with a subsurface detention facility.
The driveway behind Mateer will be extended for a service access road to the new building, which will have eight ADA and service parking spaces.
Saville said the project contractor will maintain vehicle and pedestrian access along Fischer Road during construction, though some temporary sidewalk closures near the site are anticipated.
He added that construction will have no impact on PennDOT or borough roads, with the exception of sanitary sewer connection work at Park Avenue, for which PennDOT already has approved a highway occupancy permit.
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