Building Blocks Learning Center will open an early learning academy this fall in downtown Wilkes-Barre inside the former furniture store building at 116 S. Main Street, Wilkes University announced Wednesday.
The university also revealed plans to sell the building to D&D Realty Group. The price of the sale was not disclosed.
Last November, Wilkes University announced renovation plans to develop 36 apartments on the top three floors; D&D was leasing those floors at that time. The new Building Blocks center will be located on the first floor and accommodate approximately 120 children from infants to prekindergarten. Discounted child care will be offered to Wilkes students, faculty and staff.
“For many years, we have contemplated campus-based child care for those in our community who are parents or caregivers,” Wilkes President Greg Cant said in a news release. “Under this new agreement with D&D, Building Blocks Learning Center will provide affordable, convenient and quality care to our employees and students, making a Wilkes education even more attainable.”
Since November, unanticipated building repairs and construction costs “made the sale of the building most beneficial to the project,” the university said.
“We have been highly focused on carefully managing our fiscal resources. As much as we would like to fulfill our vision for this property, we will not do so in a way that poses a financial burden to the University,” Cant said. “Selling the building allows us to relieve the University of those costs while achieving our goal for South Main Street.”
To date, nearly half of the apartments at 116 S. Main St. have been leased. Apartment occupancy will begin in August.
“We continue to see consistent demand for quality market-rate housing in downtown Wilkes-Barre. We believe the development of 116 South Main not only enhances the Northampton & Main corridor tremendously, but also serves as an example of what can happen when neighbors work together on a collective vision,” Nick Dye of D&D Realty Group said in the news release.
Dye did not respond to an email and phone message asking about the price of the sale. Gabrielle D’Amico, Wilkes associate vice president of marketing communications, said the university has not yet closed on the sale and D&D would have to disclose the price.
Wilkes will retain ownership of Grant Alley, next to the building, and enhancements are underway. New curbs and walkways, lighting and associated streetscape amenities will be completed in September.
The South Main Street Early Learning Academy will provide hands-on learning opportunities to Wilkes students in a variety of academic majors, most notably education. Wilkes degrees and professional development programs in education will also benefit Building Blocks Learning Center and their teachers. The Wilkes TEACH program offers a fully online and affordable pathway to a bachelor’s degree for those working in early childhood or day care centers.
The building at 116 S. Main St. was constructed in 1914 as a furniture store and coffin manufacturer. It was used as a Sears Roebuck Department Store from 1929 to 1955 and as a discount retail store until 1967. The building later housed office space and was called South Main Towers.
In 2017, the university bought the property $500,000 and received $680,375 in state funding for environmental remediation at the building.