New Kensington’s renovated coffee bar reopens serving Starbucks products

October 29, 2014

UPPER BURRELL, Pa. -- With a gentle pull on the lever, the brewed Arabica coffee beans, specially selected by Starbucks, flowed forth Oct. 20, at Penn State New Kensington’s remodeled Junction coffee bar.

Starbucks coffee is the featured attraction of the Junction, which is located in the lobby of the campus’ main entrance. As a part of the Junction remodeling project, a new floor was installed in the Administration Building, from the lobby to the Elizabeth S. Blissell Library.

Managed by AVI Foodsystems, the campus food service, the coffee bar complements the student cafeteria, Cafe 780, as a breakfast, lunch and dinner destination for the campus and local business communities. The Junction serves Starbucks coffee, lattes and cappuccinos, hot and iced, as well as flavored smoothies. Food items include bagels, sandwiches, muffins, cookies, pasties, yogurt, fruit salads and fresh fruit. Hours are 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Fridays. When the Junction is closed, patrons can find their favorite foods and beverages in Cafe 780, which is open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Alumni and friends are encouraged to stop by the campus to enjoy a latte and breakfast sandwich on the way to work or to take out a dinner on the way home. AVI is an independent company that provides food services to industry, universities, school systems and health care facilities. For catering services, contact Mike Tokarek, resident director, at 724-334-6175 or

The opening of the Junction was the final piece of the campus construction project that began in May when spring classes ended. During the past six months, the physical plant went through a series of renovations to improve safety and accessibility, and to upgrade existing facilities.

The most visible projects are redesigned areas -- the Junction and Café 780 courtyard. Other areas that begin anew are the Athletics Center, biomedical engineering technology (BET) and radiological sciences classrooms and labs, and the compost site.

To give the courtyard a more intimate feel, a pergola was constructed by the side entrance of the courtyard. Also known as an arbor, a pergola is a type of gazebo that features a shaded sitting area of vertical posts and cross-beams supporting open lattice. The lattice will be covered with woody vines. In addition to the pergola, the courtyard features a fire pit, along with new furniture and benches. Chancellor Kevin Snider is already utilizing the pit for a series of fireside chats with campus students.

Among upgrades to the Athletics Center are air conditioning for the basketball/volleyball court, wrestling room, racquetball court and the repurposed pilates/yoga studio. Formerly a second racquetball court, the studio is replete with mirrors and a sound system, and will be used for group fitness classes and workout sessions. The Athletics Center also houses a fitness center, with heavy equipment, and a cardiovascular room with light equipment. Other amenities include an artificial putting green and a golf driving cage, which are located outside the Athletics Center.

Renovations to the biomedical and radiology classrooms and labs allow for more hands-on instruction. The new equipment for the BET program includes an upgraded student Intensive Care Unit, one of only two fully-equipped student ICUs in the United States. Health care providers rely on BET graduates to operate, maintain, troubleshoot and repair medical equipment. Updated imaging equipment for the Radiological Sciences program gives students the opportunity to work with medical equipment that is currently used in hospitals. Radiographers provide patient care using safe radiation practices, operate sophisticated technical equipment and make independent judgments and decisions daily.

With the opening of the composting site in September, the campus improved visibility and availability of recycling efforts. The goal is to turn the campus into a living laboratory and give students the skills they need to become sustainability leaders in the community. The compost site is nourished with pre- and post-consumption food waste from Café 780. Expected to mature by spring, the compost mixture will feed the campus’ pollinator garden, trees and flower beds on campus. Erected in the southwest section of the campus, adjacent to the campus' nature trail, the pollinator garden serves as a habitat for native birds, bees and butterflies. Native plants provide nectar, pollen, larva food and habitat. Pollination and pollinators play a major role in the production of food.

The “greening” of the campus is done under the auspicious of the Green Team and supported by an $11,000 grant from the Sustainable Institute at Penn State. The campus’ sustainability efforts are aligned with the institute's Living Laboratory principles, which include: improving human health and happiness through sustainability; educating the campus community, the Penn State community and the local community; expanding current resources and developing new ones; and collaborating with community groups and organizations that promote STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) activities.

Other improvements to campus facilities included roof replacements for the Robert D. Arbuckle Technology Building and the Forum Theatre. New exterior doors and renovations of Room 132 were completed for the Engineering Building.

The latest construction projects are a part of the campus “beautification” program instituted by Snider in 2008, the first year of his administration. Buoyed by a $60,000 investment from Penn State, the campus set aside landscaped areas for the planting of trees, plants and flowers. Gardens throughout the campus, including the one surrounding the shrine, provide areas for students and alumni to relax, reflect and enjoy nature.

The first project in 2011 enhanced the entrance area of the Athletics Center and courtyard of the Conference Center. The following year, projects were developed in order to improve the safety and accessibility. The front entrance off Myers Drive was closed and converted it into an environmentally-friendly rain garden that controls storm water. The upper parking lot was rebuilt and reconfigured.

Last year, the 45-year-old Athletics Center was fitted with a new roof and its brick façade was cleaned and grouted. The lobby, with a new floor, paint, lights, furniture and glass trophy shelves, became a brighter place for students to congregate by adding “store-front-style” doors and windows, which allows more natural light. The basketball/volleyball court also received a fresh coat of paint. In the Administration Building, a hallway ceiling system was installed with white tiles and new lighting. Natural lighting increased in the Arbuckle Building and Blissell Library as new glass doors were hung. Additionally, another group of classrooms was upgraded. The beautification of the campus continued with increased seating niches, green space and landscaping in the Nittany Lion shrine area.

The end of the 2014 construction season does not portend the end of campus improvements. Slated for 2015 are renovations to the Forum Theatre and building a field for the campus softball team at the Alcoa Technical Center on state Route 780.

Alcoa and the campus have a long history of collaboration. In 1963, the company donated land to Penn State, and three years later, the present Upper Burrell campus opened on the 35-acre parcel. Since then, Alcoa and Penn State have worked together on numerous initiatives, such as scholarships, the virtual nature trail, "green chemistry" and service projects that have benefited the campus and the community. In July 2009, Alcoa was the recipient of the campus' inaugural Corporate Partner of the Year award.

The “greening” of the campus moved forward with the additions of two environmentally-friendly rain gardens that control storm water. The gardens serve as a barrier to the closed Myers Drive entrance.

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Bill Woodard

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Last Updated October 29, 2014