Riverview Children’s Center adds classrooms, other amenities with $2 million expansion
A multimillion dollar expansion project designed to help children with early education programs has been completed.
State, county and local officials celebrated the accomplishment with a ribbon cutting at the Riverview Children’s Center along Sylvan Way in Verona.
About 100 people, including center alumni and parents, showed up for the event Sept. 19.
“Everybody out there has mattered to this place, and they’ve mattered to me,” said center executive director Betty Lisowski. “It’s been the contributions that these folks have made every step of the way that helped us to get here.”
The center was founded below the railroad tracks in 1979 by Elizabeth Rockwell Raphael. It currently serves about 160 children from 18 different municipalities in Western Pennsylvania.
It was awarded four stars by the state’s Office of Child Development and Early Learning, and received accreditation through the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Two classrooms were added to the facility in 2000.
The latest expansion adds 5,000 square feet with a multipurpose room, a new kitchen, administrative suite redesigns, improvements to windows, doors, plumbing and HVAC systems and toddler classroom reconfiguration.
Planning began in 2013 when center officials realized they had 185 children on their waiting list.
“People can’t wait forever to get in here,” Lisowski said.
Architect David Lowry of Riverside Architecture helped designed the project. Verona-based A. Martini Co. was the primary contractor. They broke ground in March 2017 and handled the finishing touches this past summer.
Cost was estimated at $2.4 million with at least $1.1 million from state and county funds. Those contributions included grants from the Commonwealth’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, Community Infrastructure and Tourism Fund and the Gaming Economic Development Fund.
“Our most important job in Harrisburg and the biggest part of our budget is investing in education,” said State Rep. Frank Dermody, D-Oakmont. “If we do our job in Harrisburg in making the appropriate investments in education, this Commonwealth is going to prosper. What we have done here, and what all of you have done here with your contributions will make this a much better place to live, a much better place to work and raise our families.”
Some grants were administered through the Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County.
“You can look at the faces and see the enthusiasm and the success that this place has,” County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said prior to taking part in the ribbon cutting. “This place has a heart. This isn’t just about walls and floors and buildings and a beautiful facility. We all know as parents the best thing we can do is invest in our children.”
Other contributions came from the Grable Foundation, Richard King Mellon Foundation, Babcock Charitable Trust, Heinz Endowments as well as other charitable and anonymous sources.
Lisowski said she had to get “107 people to say ‘yes,’” to make the dream come to fruition. Lisowski praised her staff and noted enrollment bumped up about 30 percent as a result of the expansion.
Stephanie Heakins was 2 when she was enrolled in the center more than 27 years ago. She worked several summers in its before- and after-school programs, and is now the lead pre-k teacher with a 16-student classroom.
“This expansion created my job,” said Heakins, 30, of Plum. “I love the place. I’ve been here for well over half of my life on and off. I see the growth every day. I look around this room and there’s a kid walking through the building talking to all of his old teachers every day.”
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter @MikeJdiVittorio.