LEWISBURG — A piercing thwack of hammer on chisel echoed through the vacant halls of the old Lewisburg Area High School as chalkboards were removed from the block walls of a former classroom.
The noise was a signal of the building’s transformation into the GreenSpace Center — a mixed-use facility repurposed for businesses and non-profit organizations, with plans for 18 new townhouses to be built on the former athletic field.
“It’s really exciting to hear construction,” said Erin Jablonski, president of tenant Lewisburg Children’s Museum, as she walked through the building Wednesday.
The GreenSpace Center is named for the project developer, GreenSpace Properties, of West Pittston. It’s helmed by Clifford Melberger, a 1961 Bucknell University graduate who maintains a second home in Lewisburg, a town he holds close to his heart.
Melberger’s firm purchased the building for $726,000 from Lewisburg Area School District. The sale closed Feb. 23. The 117,000-square-foot building served as the district’s high school since 1928 before the new high school on Newman Road in Kelly Township opened in December.
Located at the southeast corner of Routes 15 and 45, Melberger said location and the building’s sound condition made it appealing for development. Along with the Children’s Museum, tenants will include the Buffalo Valley Recreation Authority, SUM Child Development, RiverStage Community Theatre, That Kitchen Witch, WVIA and Pro-Care Physical Therapy.
Integral to Lewisburg
More than half of the building’s available space is leased and negotiations continue with others to occupy a spot.
“It was my idea to buy the building. We love to do rehabs,” Melberger said. “We always loved the location of the building.”
“I think it’s as important to make the building as integral to the town as the school was itself,” added Melberger’s wife, Ruth.
GreenSpace Properties manages 17 properties across the country including the retrofitted James Madison School in Scranton’s Hill section. The building also opened as a school in 1928 and closed in 2001. It became blighted property as it sat vacant. GreenSpace acquired the building and redeveloped it into an early childhood learning center and graduate student housing facility in conjunction with University of Scranton and Hildebrandt Learning Center. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Stacey Sommerfield, executive director of the Buffalo Valley Recreation Authority, confirmed the Authority’s main offices and Energy Gymnastics program will relocate to the gymnasium at the GreenSpace Center.
The Miller Center, under development across Route 15 at Penn House Commons, was considered for the relocation. However, the old school’s gymnasium is a better fit, Sommerfield said. It’s clear of columns that will remain at the Miller site. Also, she said a foam pit can be dug into the ground whereas the water table wouldn’t allow that across the highway.
The men’s locker room will be retrofitted for a lobby area and team room while the old guidance counselor office will become an administrative office, she said. A former weight room and an adjacent space will be turned into a multi-purpose room for Ramsey Martial Arts and gymnastics practice for toddlers and young children.
The new location will be air-conditioned, which wasn’t available at the program’s current location on Route 45 in Linntown.
“That will make it much more fun to do gymnastics in the summer,” Sommerfield said. “(The current space) has been a great location for us but we’ve really outgrown the space.”
A late-May relocation is targeted though it ultimately will depend on the renovation schedule.
“It just made more sense to move in with our largest program right now,” she said.
The Authority will conduct Bison field hockey and other programs at the Miller Center, she added.
More space available
Space, accessibility and parking are among the reasons ProCare Physical Therapy will move from downtown Lewisburg to the GreenSpace Center, according to its owner, Dr. Adam Moore.
A 2003 graduate of Lewisburg Area, Moore attended high school in the building. He opened the ProCare location in 2014. The business expanded beyond physical therapy to include personal training and fitness, occupational therapy and corporate wellness programs.
ProCare currently occupies about 3,000 square feet. The new location will be 4,800 square feet.
“We’re kind of bumping elbows a little bit. It’s tight,” Moore said. “It will be a lot more accessible for patients to come and see us, especially the geriatric and older population.
“The fact that there will be other community businesses in this space, hopefully, we can interact and develop more partnerships and have more community involvement,” he said.
The Bucknell University Small Business Development Center plans an expansion to GreenSpace. That’ll depend on how many of the small business owners from the Startup Lewisburg incubator expand operations beyond the SBDC’s downtown office, and how quickly they do so, according to Steven Stumbris, SBDC director.
“We intend to be there in the not-so-distant future,” Stumbris said.
Visit www.greenspacecenter.com for more information.
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