Within months, Lafayette will take its latest – and most visible – step in engaging its hometown. Key personnel will pack up their desks, equipment, books, and furniture and move from the tree-lined paths of College Hill into the tallest building in downtown Easton.

Lafayette Downtown LogoThe move is an essential part of the College’s planned expansion over the next 6 to 8 years, and its symbolism isn’t lost on many of the residents and business owners of the resurgent community that fans out from Centre Square to the West Ward neighborhood. Among their many joint efforts, Lafayette and Easton have for years worked to attract more students, faculty, and employees to the shops and restaurants at the bottom of the hill.

“Now,” says developer Mark Mulligan, “we’re a college town.”

The College will lease three floors of the Alpha Building, the historic 9-and-a-half story art deco building owned by Mulligan’s VM Development Group on the city’s main traffic circle, which until recently housed Easton’s government. About 80 communications, information technology, admissions, and community-engagement employees will work at the building, which will also offer space for conferences, training, and elbow-rubbing for members of Easton’s community and the College.

“This continues a very positive trend for Lafayette: taking advantage of our location in a vibrant, growing community and recognizing that our fortunes are tied up with the city of Easton,” says Lafayette President Alison Byerly.

“It’s a just a remarkable partnership … and it’s just grown over the last 15 years,” says Easton Mayor Sal Panto Jr. “When I travel around the country and talk to my other mayor friends, they can’t believe the kind of national model we have here for the town-gown relationship. I really see a future that’s strong that’s really going to include Lafayette College in the city.”

Lafayette Downtown

Our New Offices in Easton

This map shows Lafayette's main campus on College Hill, the newly-completed Williams Arts Campus on North Third Street, and our newest location, Lafayette Downtown in the Alpha Building on Centre Square.

The move is part of an effort designed to help Lafayette become more diverse and competitive. In March, the Board of Trustees agreed to a strategic direction that will enhance the College’s affordability and distinction through growth.

Moving to the Alpha Building frees space in various facilities in the center of campus, says Mary Wilford-Hunt, director of space management, landscape and special projects. The design will be open concept, state-of-the-art office space, Wilford-Hunt says, and construction is slated to begin in early fall.

Among the offices moving downtown:

  • Moving the Center for Community Engagement will open up space in its current building on Second Street. At the new location, Bonnie Winfield, Lafayette’s director of community partnerships, will facilitate a space for dialogue, expressive arts, and community partner activities. “It’s going to be awesome, being right downtown,” says Winfield. The move will also free up her office at 522 March St.
  • With the Admissions Office being located in Markle Hall for more than 30 years, technology advances and demographic changes have created new expectations among prospective students and families. With more than 10,000 visitors to campus per year, traffic into Markle Hall has increased significantly, especially in recent years. Moving admissions operations employees who do not work directly with the public frees up space for admissions counselors. “While our location is good in Markle, we are quickly outgrowing our space. With admission interviews being so highly valued in our personalized approach, we simply don’t have the rooms to have meaningful one-on-one conversations with students and families. That will change after the move to Centre Square is complete,” says Greg MacDonald, vice president of enrollment. “Moving about a third of our team downtown will provide more spacious work space for our operations team, and new leadership opportunities across the division.”
  • About 25 employees in College’s Information Technology Services will be relocating. John O’Keefe, vice president and chief information officer and interim VP for Communications, says the Alpha Building already has much of the needed infrastructure in place to keep his team wired. Several first-line IT responders will remain on the College Hill campus. The move opens space at Skillman Library and Pardee Hall.
  • When the Communications Division moves more space will become available at its former home in Feather House on Cattell Street for other college uses directly related to students and activities. “I’m an Easton resident. I care a lot about the city,” says O’Keefe, who graduated from Lafayette in 1996 and has lived in Easton since 1999. “I’ve always been fascinated by the city and a big fan and hoped it would do well. This has to be a part of that.”

For downtown Easton, the change will be dramatic. While the neighborhood is booming, most of the new businesses are small retailers and restaurants. Along with the recent completion of the Williams Arts Campus on North Third Street, Lafayette — already the largest employer in the city — will now be one of the largest employers downtown, says Kim Kmetz, manager of Easton’s Main Street Initiative.

The Alpha Building

The Alpha Building

“We don’t have many large employers, like a PPL [the utility company, headquartered in nearby Allentown],” Kmetz says. “It’s meaningful for us economically to have that many more employees to take advantage of these businesses.”

Mulligan, whose company is responsible for most of Easton’s biggest redevelopment projects in recent years – the former Pomeroy department store building on Northampton Street, the Simon Silk Mill project in the West Ward, and the Governor Wolf Building, for example – says the move to the Alpha Building is only a small portion of the College’s engagement with Easton.

For example, every August Mayor Sal Panto Jr. meets with incoming first-year students, who are given a tour of the town, and students spend hundreds of hours each year volunteering for community organizations, including the Easton Farmers’ Market in Centre Square.

Beyond the 80 employees at Lafayette Downtown, the city will benefit from students, employees, and faculty coming down the hill to visit the Alpha Building for business. Also, much of the development in Easton is night-life focused; Lafayette’s staff will be there during the day, patronizing local shops and eateries.

“The resurgence you see downtown is certainly exciting to see, and we’re hoping to contribute to that by putting some of our staff in a position to also become members of the downtown community while they’re at work during the day,” says Byerly.