By Anne Danahy COLLEGE TOWNSHIP -- Penn State administrators are eyeing two sites for the Dickinson School of Law's University Park campus and plan to decide by this fall where the $60 million building will go.
The facility could be built behind the Bigler Road flower gardens on the north side of Park Avenue or at the corner of Park Avenue and University Drive, where the women's softball field is now located. The university had already planned to move the field.
Penn State President Graham Spanier spoke about plans for the law school during a meeting with the Centre Daily Times editorial board Wednesday.
He said the plan is to build a facility at University Park that has the same stature as the new $68 million, 210,000-square-feet Smeal College of Business Building on Park Avenue or the $58 million IST Building that crosses Atherton Street and takes up almost 200,000 square feet.
He said the university will pay for most of the estimated $60 million cost through its bond financing plans.
And Spanier said he has begun meeting with potential donors to raise money to renovate and expand the aging law school campus in Carlisle. The agreement between Penn State trustees and the law school's board of governors that allows construction of a University Park campus also calls for an estimated $40 million in renovations to the Carlisle facility.
Gov. Ed Rendell has promised to match the money raised for the Carlisle renovations, up to $25 million.
The fund-raising will last for about six months, and its success will determine the scope of the Carlisle renovations, Spanier said. "We're focusing all of the fund-raising right now for the Carlisle building project," he said.
The university will probably appoint one architect for both the Carlisle and University Park projects. That could happen, at the earliest, in September. Development of the design would take about a year, Spanier said, after which construction would begin.
The Carlisle renovations will take place at the same time or slightly ahead of the University Park project, he said.
Spanier said an advantage to the site behind the flower garden is that it would put the law school facility next to the planned arboretum, and near the Smeal College of Business, the College of Agricultural Sciences and other colleges.
The University Drive site also would be close to other colleges, and a law school at that site would be the first academic building that people driving to the university from the interstate would see.
Details of changes to the law school's administrative structure haven't yet been worked out, Spanier said. The law school dean would have offices at both campuses, but would likely end up spending more and more time in State College and eventually living near the University Park campus. An associate dean could be based out of the Carlisle campus.
Spanier said there are too many variables to estimate the law school's total enrollment with two campuses. About 175 new students enrolled at Dickinson this year. That number would not double when the University Park campus opens, but could increase to about 250 students, he said. The university's goal, however, would be to hold enrollment at University Park to 42,000 students.
Both campuses would offer law degrees, continuing education courses and master's degree programs, but may vary in other aspects. Spanier said the Carlisle campus would have more opportunities to focus on government and public service law, while University Park will have more opportunities for dual degrees in joint programs, such as a degree in law and business.
"This is a very significant trend in legal education and will become more significant in the coming years, and, indeed, is one of the principal reasons why this discussion started in the first place," Spanier said.
Current law school faculty will get to choose where they want to be based, and the university will likely hire some additional faculty, he said.
Three members of the law school's board of governors have challenged the two-campus agreement in Cumberland County Court. A hearing began Friday and is scheduled to resume March 4.