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Medical school makes a beginning

Construction is under way in Scranton for The Commonwealth Medical College.

John P. Moses, chairman of the Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania Board, speaks Friday at the Commonwealth Medical College construction site on Pine Street in Scranton. Construction of the $120 million project is now under way and the new Medical Sciences Building will be open in 2011.

Niko J. Kallianiotis / For The Times Leader

SCRANTON – To those driving along Pine Street between Washington and Adams avenues, they see a simple construction site that will soon be home to The Commonwealth Medical College. To those gathered at that site Friday, it’s much more than that.

“I look out there and I see some equipment that’s ostensibly here to build the foundation of a building,” said John Moses, a board member of the college and Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania. “But really we’re here today to build a foundation for something far more significant.”

As big trucks and heavy equipment made noise and moved earth on the three-acre lot, more than 50 people stood nearby commemorating the importance of the work – the start of the $120 million construction project of the Medical Sciences Building.

“Watching these construction vehicles begin work today is a wonderful visible sign of moving forward with an idea and a dream that has been in the works since 2003,” said Robert Naismith, vice chairman of the college’s board. “This building will serve as a place for our future students to study, learn and discover and will serve as a symbol for many of us in the community of tremendous progress.”

Dr. Robert D’Alessandri, president and dean of the medical college, said there was plenty of optimism when the idea of a medical school in Northeastern Pennsylvania was suggested more than five years ago. He said there were also a lot of naysayers who questioned whether it could really be put together and come to fruition.

“People said this wouldn’t happen. This is further proof that this is happening,” D’Alessandri said.

The school will hold its first classes for students this summer in classrooms at Lackawanna College. In 2011, they’ll begin using the new building. Satellite sites in Wilkes-Barre and Williamsport will also be used.

“This is a true community effort,” D’Alessandri said. He said area banks, community leaders and elected officials are played a vital role, as did Blue Cross, local hospitals and medical professionals.

Peter Danchek, president of PNC Bank Northeast, told the crowd “Scranton changes forever today.”

Scranton Mayor Christopher Doherty said the college will create hundreds of jobs, the need for living quarters for students, more people working in downtown Scranton and a sense of community pride to be home to the school.

“This is a tremendous gift to our city,” Doherty said.

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