By Bill Landauer
The Williams Arts Campus has won this year’s best redevelopment project award from the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission. The annual award celebrates planning and development achievements in Lehigh and Northampton counties.
“This award is an honor not only for Lafayette, but for the community of Easton and the entire Lehigh Valley, who helped make it happen,” says President Alison Byerly. “The Williams Arts Campus has transformed a set of empty buildings into a vibrant gateway between Lafayette and the city. It provides exciting academic and cultural opportunities for our students and for local residents. It contributes to the thriving arts scene that is such an important part of Easton’s success. ”
The project, encompassing several buildings and most of a city block, is the result of years of redevelopment work at the base of College Hill on North Third Street in Easton. Today, Williams Arts Campus is the primary gateway between Lafayette’s main campus and the city’s downtown.
“The vision for the campus is to be a hub of creative interaction, where students and local residents can take classes, view films, visit exhibits, and attend shows,” says Roger Demareski, vice president for finance and administration. “The facilities at the arts campus increased the College’s space for the arts by almost 50 percent.”
It began in 2001, when Lafayette converted the Hoffman Motors building into the Williams Visual Arts Building. The facility includes space for painting, sculpture, and drawing studios for faculty and students. The massive brick structure houses both classrooms and the Grossman Gallery, which hosts exhibitions by visiting and regional artists and high school students, in addition to Lafayette faculty and students.
Nine years later, Lafayette announced a plan to expand the site into the Williams Arts Campus, which was completed in 2016 at a cost of more than $24 million. By converting the former Club Mohican and Case’s Tire buildings on North Third Street and razing structures to construct Buck Hall on Snyder Street, the College created an arts campus that serves as a vibrant gateway to Lafayette and as an attraction for Easton residents and visitors.
Williams Arts Campus includes studios for theater for films, a sound stage, a black box theater, and media and teaching labs.
The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission was formed by Lehigh and Northampton counties in 1961 to create a comprehensive plan to guide orderly growth. It provides planning services to the counties and 62 municipalities in the Lehigh Valley.