The Foundation for IUP and IUP celebrated the completion of a $6-million renovation of the IUP Fairman Centre today with formal ribbon-cutting ceremonies.

“The IUP Fairman Centre signals a new era of economic revitalization and growth in Punxsutawney,” Dr. Tony Atwater, president of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, said. “IUP enjoys contributing to the welfare and progress of our host communities. We take pride in developing partnerships that bring growth and prosperity to local communities, our region, and the commonwealth..”

Atwater described the project is a “win-win” proposition for all involved. “The community retains this beautiful, historic building in a restored condition that benefits the downtown district, and the university benefits through educational activities and programs that support curricular and workforce education goals.”

The IUP Fairman Centre, at 101 Mahoning Street in downtown Punxsutawney, is a multiuse, 24,308-square-foot building with retail space currently occupied by Gilson Glass and More, two kitchens, a dining room, lobby, three classrooms with multimedia technology, board room, a 112-seat auditorium with multimedia capabilities and “smart” podium, and twelve rooms for twenty-three students in IUP's Academy of Culinary Arts. The building also has wireless Internet.

The renovation and subsequent uses of the center are estimated to create up to sixty new jobs within five years of operation and add the opportunity for three hundred new students at the Academy of Culinary Arts and IUP at Punxsutawney—IUP's two educational centers in Punxsutawney.

The Academy of Culinary Arts, along Gilpin Street, is a certification program limited to one hundred students. IUP at Punxsutawney, along Winslow Street, enrolls three hundred students who complete their first-year studies at that campus.

In addition to Atwater, speakers during today's ribbon-cutting ceremony included Dr. Valarie Trimarchi, dean of IUP at Punxsutawney; Timothy Rupert, vice president of the Foundation for IUP Board of Directors; state Rep. Sam Smith and David Osikowicz, both members of IUP's Council of Trustees; Hilary DeMane, executive pastry chef at the Academy of Culinary Arts; and Joyce Fairman, representing the Fairman families, of Jefferson County.

In his remarks, Atwater thanked members of the Punxsutawney-area community for their support of the project, including financial supporters Elaine Light, the Punxsutawney Area College Trust, the Borough of Punxsutawney, KTH Architects Inc., and Linda and C. David Deabenderfer.

The 106-year-old IUP Fairman Centre is the former J.B. Eberhart Building, a retail and business center. In ceremonies held October 27, 2006, the Punxsutawney Regional Development Corp. presented the building to the Foundation for IUP, a nonprofit entity.

During that event, Atwater announced a $1.9-million gift from the Alan and Roy Fairman families, of Jefferson County, for renovation of the facility, which was renamed the IUP Fairman Centre in honor and memory of the late Alan Fairman and the late Roy Fairman. The Fairman family gift is the second largest gift in IUP history for a single purpose.

Alan Fairman was responsible for the construction of a youth recreation facility, named in his honor and memory, in Currensville and was a volunteer with youth sports almost all of his adult life. The Fairman families also established the Roy R. Fairman Scholarship for Punxsutawney High School students and have supported other scholarship and educational initiatives in the region and at IUP, including the restoration of McElhaney Hall.

Roy Fairman served as a member of the Foundation for IUP Board of Directors from 1983 to 1991 and the IUP Council of Trustees from 1989 to 1993. The Fairmans own Fairman Drilling Co., based in DuBois.

The Fairman gift added to and leveraged $2,444,500 in grants and contributions from federal, state and local agencies for renovation of the facility, including $2 million from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program Matching Funds, $200,000 from the Appalachian Region Commission, $195,000 from the United States Department of Agriculture-Rural Business Enterprise, and $50,000 from the Borough of Punxsutawney. The building is appraised at $71,500, and renovation costs are estimated to be $4.7 million.

The J.B. Eberhart Building was built by J.B. Eberhart, a business owner from Ridgway who came to Punxsutawney in 1898. At the time of the building's construction in 1902, it was the largest department store between Punxsutawney and Buffalo, N.Y.

In its early years, in addition to the traditional department store offerings on the first and second floors of the building, seven offices occupied the third floor: Bellefonte Coal and Coke Co., the H.G. Bowers coal interest, the T.M. Kurtz and S.A. Rinn coal and lumber interests, Valier Coal Co., Williams Coal Co., and Watters & Co. brokers.

The building was remodeled in 1928 to include a third floor of “household fixings” with a model home display. A new elevator was added to the building at that time.

As a result of the Depression, the store ended business in 1932, and the building was sold to the G.C. Murphy Co. The facility operated as the G.C. Murphy Co. Five and Ten Cent Store from 1934 until the mid-1980s, when it was sold to a private owner. The building was occupied by the Western Auto Store with Wade Mock's Photo Lab during the 1980s and early 1990s. It was last occupied in 1992.

In 2001, the Punxsutawney Chamber of Commerce approached the Punxsutawney Regional Development Corp. with the idea of a partnership to rehabilitate the building. The building was sold to the partnering groups on August 21, 2001, after the development corporation secured grant funding.

In early 2005, Punxsutawney Regional Development Corp. President Frank Roberts began discussions with IUP about the idea of restoring the building as a viable economic enterprise for the region.