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Ralph comes to Penn's Zellerbach Auditorium to talk in an event celebrating the 100th anniversary of the School of Social policy. Credit: Mustafa Al-ammar , Mustafa Al-ammar

The ARCH building, situated on 36th and Locust streets, is looking for a donor to fund a major renovation.

The renovation plan includes improving the auditorium on the second floor to a “state-of-the-art” classroom and lecture hall that can be transformed into a multi-purpose programming space, said Rob Nelson, director for Education in the Office of the Provost.

The Crest Room on the ground floor, which is currently used for classes and meetings, will be converted into a cafe adjoining the main lobby.

Cultural centers Makuu, La Casa Latina and the Pan-Asian American Community House — as well as the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships and the Benjamin Franklin Scholars and University Scholars programs — will be allotted new office and meeting spaces.

The renovation project has been considered a high priority by University administrators since it was introduced through the Penn Connects initiative in 2007, Nelson said.

SaylorGregg Architects, a Philadelphia-based firm, was contracted to assess the feasibility of the ARCH building renovations. The firm gathered feedback and ideas from students and staff who frequent the building and drew up plans for an elevator and a heating and cooling system.

La Casa Latina director Johnny Irizarry, who is based in the ARCH building, hopes the renovations will increase “foot traffic” in the center, exposing the cultural centers to more students.

ARCH also provides practice space for performing arts groups, some of which are running into scheduling difficulties.

Penn Lions, the lion dance troupe, practices in ARCH twice a week.

Engineering junior and troupe member Brian Lee said, “ARCH sometimes double-books the rooms. If there is an event going on at the same time and place as our rehearsal, we get pushed out.”

Although the renovations will not extend the building, it aims to put previously under-utilized spaces to more efficient use, Nelson said.

College junior and Chinese Students' Association Political Chairwoman Terry Ye would like to see the ARCH basement renovated.

“Our annual CSA cultural show is held in the basement. It would be really great if we had better lighting down there and it wasn’t as bare,” she said.

The ARCH building, erected in 1928, is one of the 30 certified buildings on Penn’s campus that belong to the Pennsylvania Register of Historic Places. SaylorGregg Architects’ feasibility study also focused on how to preserve the historic features of the building, such as its exterior and the interior wood paneling and windows.

However, the University will not be able to begin renovations until a donor is found, Nelson said.

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