The remodeling and retrofitting of the former CNA building at 401 Penn Street in downtown Reading has started. Alvernia University finalized the purchase of the building on June 30, 2020.

Below: CNA building at 401 Penn Street in downtown Reading. Click images to enlarge.

The latest addition to the Alvernia campus is now the centerpiece of Reading CollegeTowne, the innovative strategy of expanding the campus into the downtown area to continue its Franciscan mission of education, service and community engagement, serving the underserved through education and economic development.


Alvernia recently received a $4 million grant from the Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program to renovate its newly secured downtown Reading location. The grant award is the largest in the university’s 62-year history.

Alvernia has partnered with RLPS Architects and Warfel Construction to renovate and retrofit the former CNA building. The plan is to renovate the building into academic, instructional and office space on the lower and ground floors. There would also be three commercial spaces on the ground floor and a portion of the third and fourth floors would house residential units.

Below: Rendering of lobby.


Between 90 and 100 staff and faculty will use the building, and it’s anticipated between 400 to 500 students would use the building. The university also expects to house 66 residents at the building.

The nearby Madison Building which is currently be renovated will offer 85 one and two bedroom apartments for teachers and professors of Alvernia University’s CollegeTowne project, and Reading Area Community College a few blocks away.

The nearby Berskhire Building is being renovated to provide housing for any international students planning to attend Alvernia, a majority from Saudi Arabia.

“This support for Alvernia and the Reading CollegeTowne movement is truly unprecedented and was made possible by the continuing outpouring of support of so many, including Senator Schwank, Mayor Moran, Reading City Council and the Berks County Commissioner, our trustees and partners,” said Alvernia University President John R. Loyack. “The unification and collaboration brought about by the Reading CollegeTowne initiative is truly remarkable, and we are excited to be taking another big step forward on bringing our CollegeTowne initiative to life with its design of not only creating the future for our institution but also the economic redevelopment of downtown Reading.”

The university recently announced the addition of three engineering programs that will be housed at the location as well as the relocation of the business and communication programs. The engineering program is the first academic offering to emerge from Alvernia’s newly-launched modernized, student-centered and entrepreneurial operating model. The building will include state of the art labs and research facilities as well as easy access to the economic redevelopment activity happening on Penn Street and throughout downtown Reading.

The university’s student-centered business incubator powered by Alvernia’s rebranded O’Pake Institute for Economic Development and Entrepreneurship will also be located at the downtown location. The student powered business incubator is central to the Reading CollegeTowne initiative. The incubator is student-run and provides experiential learning opportunities for students of all disciplines. This initiative will allow students to create, collaborate and lead while providing hands-on support to new ventures and entrepreneurs in the community.

Alvernia recently received a $300,000 grant from the Wyomissing Foundation to support the university’s O’Pake Institute for Economic Development and Entrepreneurship.

Reading CollegeTowne is a strategy and model for championing economic redevelopment in downtown Reading. Through partnerships and collaborations with the City of Reading and local businesses and organizations, Alvernia serves as a strategic enabler for strengthening the local economy downtown.

Alvernia’s founders, the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters, have provided educational and social services to the residents of downtown Reading for 124 years. Given the success of the Alvernia’s Reading Collegiate Scholars and College Readiness programs, Alvernia will utilize the Reading CollegeTowne strategy to expand its mission and promote grassroots efforts to engage city residents to better meet the needs of the city’s underserved population.

Alvernia is uniquely positioned and prepared to lead the Reading CollegeTowne initiative and will enlist other organizations and businesses such as Berks County Community Foundation, Greater Reading Chamber Alliance and Berks Alliance to partner together in breathing new life and vitality into downtown Reading.


Join Our Newsletter 

Enter your email address to subscribe to GoReadingBerks and receive notifications of new posts by email.