KU’s Poplar House to be renovated into a visitor’s center

By Gabriel Benner
Contributing Writer

KU currently has no “single stop” location for visitors and prospective students. The University is planning to renovate the Poplar House in the near future to resolve the issue, said University Architect Carol Sztaba.

Photo courtesy of Gabriel Benner

Currently when visitors and prospective students need to get information about where things are, parking and other information about the school, they need to travel to multiple buildings, such as the MSU, Administration and Public Safety, which makes the University less inviting.

“The Poplar House would be a great place for a Visitor’s Center because it is the first building you see coming up Main St.,” says Sztaba. The Poplar House resides at the intersection of Kutztown Rd., W. Main St. and Normal Ave.

“Even though it is a KU priority, they have sent the project plans to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education every year since 2011 as part of KU’s top five projects . It would be a two year project, and PASSHE still has to approve it,” said Sztaba. PASSHE must approve their funding requests by June 30 every year.

KU is slated to receive $50,000+ from PASSHE over the next three years, which, in combination with funding from KU itself, would allow Poplar’s renovation plans to be implemented.

The plans for the Poplar House are to expand it to 6420 sq. ft. with two floors containing a side entrance, inside gathering area, assembly area, meeting room, offices, outside public gathering area and a small parking area, according to Sztaba.

Photo courtesy of Gabriel Benner

Ideally, it would have some of admissions located in the building–the building would still be too small for all of admissions–as well as parking passes, maps and campus tours starting point, said Sztaba.

Having all of these things located in one building would make it easier for visitors and prospective students to find the information they need to know about KU.

When asked about how the plan to renovate the Poplar House into a Visitor’s Center would affect current and incoming students Erica Sratton, the Dean of Students’ Secretary, replied, “Unfortunately, it’s too early to say what the impact will be to current and incoming students.

When asked about their thoughts on the Visitor’s Center, Robert McGowen, KU Student and Former Facilitator Training Coordinator, said, “Having a Visitor’s Center would be redundant because the MSU front desk helps with that, and the [Academic Forum] is a good location for parking passes, and [I] don’t see it getting much use beyond the first three weeks max.“ 

He also said that he would “like to see it as a place of gathering for clubs possibly.”

McGowen does agree with having tours meet there seeing it as “a nice cozy setting since everyone says KU is homey.”

The Poplar House is currently being used as a storage area for the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center; however, they have been gradually migrating their materials out of the building, so they will not be impacted by the renovations when they start.

KU hopes to start renovations within the next two years with the funding from PASSHE and the University’s own funding. They hope it will be completed within two years of its start.


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