Newly Renovated Commonwealth Charter Academy Unveils New Agworks Facility

The new AgWorks facility at Commonwealth Charter Academy’s (CCA) Capital Campus is a 6,100 square-foot Aquaponics learning center and laboratory which is constructed in one of the atriums of the former PSECU Headquarters building.  The CCA Headquarters building was selected for an adaptive reuse project to convert the vacant headquarters building into their new headquarters office and educational center.

CCA has approximately 9,400 students statewide and is a top performing Cyber Charter School in Pennsylvania.  The school provides personalized, tuition free education to its students.  Teachers and students connect digitally with the majority of their day to day classwork online.  The education centers are the local hubs that allow students to meet face to face with their teachers and access specialized learning environments.

New and exciting adaptive reuse of vacant financial headquarters office.

The old PSECU headquarters building had sat vacant for several years and was identified as an option for the location for CCA’s new headquarters building.  CCA hired Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates (CRA Architects) to perform a study to review the building infrastructure and available space to see if it was a viable solution to be renovated for their new office and education center.  The study showed it met their needs and was purchased by CCA to be renovated.

CRA Architects begin the programming process with CCA to determine their needs and developed solutions to transform this aging building into new vibrant and exciting headquarters office and education center for its students.

Project receives competitive bids and is under budget and great value to CCA.

In order to provide a cost effective solution, the design of the building focused on reusing as much structure of the building and limiting major construction throughout the entirety of the building.  Effort was spent transforming the interior of the building to meet the dynamic needs of the teachers and students.  Additionally, a new entrance and image for the headquarters was created.

The project was estimated at $12 Million dollars and bids were received approximately $200K less than the budget, which included all alternates selected for the building.  The cost ended up at approximately $66/SF for the renovation.  Including the purchase price of the building at $5 Million – the overall cost per square foot for the project was $94/SF.  A new office building of this caliber would cost nearly $200/SF – these costs show a significant savings for CCA.

New Agworks Facility provide real world working opportunities to students.

“The bigger piece of K-12 education is preparing kids for adulthood, whether that is for college in a four-year program, a certificate program, or an associates degree.  Students need real-world labor skills for commercial settings and this can help cut down on the time to develop those lab skills.”

Maurice “Reese” Fleurie III, CEO of School

The new facility is the largest known public educational aquaponics facility in the country.  The facility was funded by a federal grant and designed by the Harrisburg based Integrated Agriculture Systems (INTAG) in conjunction with CRA Architects.  Aquaponics is a symbiotic system where microbial life converts waste products of fish and other aquatic life into fertilizer for plants which are grown in water rather than soil.  This all functions in a controlled indoor ecosystem where no pesticides are used.

The research facility will grow approximately 3,000 plants and trees and house more than 400 tilapia, koi and prawn.   The students are provided with hands on learning opportunities and manage the aquatics population, plant the vegetables and trees, monitor their growth, and ultimately harvest the products for use at local restaurants.  There is tremendous opportunity with this integrated curriculum to cater the new trends in Science, Engineering, and Agricultural fields.

Working with local industry and restaurants, the facility plans to part of that “farm to table” experience.

Some of the harvested foods will be provided to local restaurants and the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank.  Foods will include Micro Greens, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers and tilapia.

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