Harrisburg University plans to build city's tallest towerRFP going out Thursday to find development teams for health science education center, mixed-use facility
Harrisburg University of Science and Technology is betting big on the future of the health care industry in Central Pennsylvania.
The growing university will issue a request for proposals on Thursday to find development teams capable of erecting what could be the tallest building in the capital city when it opens in 2021.
President Eric Darr said the proposed mixed-use tower could be 36 stories and cost $130 million to $150 million to develop.
The university has an agreement to buy connected parcels at 222 Chestnut St., as well as 24, 26 and 28 S. Third St. for the development. The parcels are next to an El Sol restaurant, not far from the Crowne Plaza hotel and UPMC Pinnacle's Harrisburg Hospital.
The goal, Darr said, is to develop a state-of-the-art health science education center of about 200,000 square feet, where the university can begin to offer degree programs in nursing, pharmaceutical sciences and other allied health programs to help regional health care providers find employees they will need as they continue to grow.
HU is looking to partner with UPMC Pinnacle, Select Medical and Geisinger Health System on the design of the educational facility. The university expects to begin offering a nursing program next year.
"It's not like we pulled this idea out of thin air," Darr said. "It's because of the crying need these health systems have for professionals across multiple disciplines. For us to get into nursing makes a lot of sense because of the hundreds of openings across hospitals in Central Pennsylvania."
HU, which has seen its enrollment grow to more than 4,200 students between undergraduate and graduate programs, would like to add more than 1,000 students across the new health science programs to help meet local workforce needs. An advanced manufacturing program also is in the works and could occupy classroom space in the new building.
Preliminary plans for the new tower, which could be 10 stories taller than any other building in Harrisburg, also call for student housing with at least 300 beds and other amenities including a 144-room boutique hotel, restaurant and executive conference center.
Developers also are free to include additional components such as residential condominiums, apartments and retail, according to the RFP.
The only mandated pieces are the educational and student housing components, Darr said. Public parking also needs to be addressed in any proposal, according to the RFP. The university has a public parking garage within its current facility on Market Street.
"I think it propels (downtown) forward given the proximity of the two university towers," Darr said. "There is an opportunity to do development in and around the university."
Development has already been surging with Harristown Enterprises leading the way on multiple housing and mixed-use projects designed to bring more people downtown.
Darr said proposals for the financing and development of the new tower will be due Feb. 2. The university, which will own the land and the educational component of the facility, is asking teams to propose various financing alternatives for ownership of the entire project.
A tour and briefing for interested parties will occur Dec. 13. Given the scale of the project, he expects interest will be widespread across the country.
"This will be the biggest project in Harrisburg in at least 30 years," Darr said. "You're not going to find people who are local. This will attract national players that build large health-science, mixed-use buildings."
The university will select finalists by Feb. 23 and make its selection by April 10. Darr said he hopes to have a final agreement in place with a development team by the end of June to begin detailed design and approvals with the city.
The goal is to have shovels in the ground by the summer of 2019. Construction is expected to take about two years.
The mixed-use tower would likely create about 100 new full-time positions for the university. A hotel and restaurant would add more jobs.
The university has been recruiting faculty and designing curriculum for the new programs over the last six to nine months. It recently purchased the second floor of 225 Market St. from the Whitaker Center for the Science and the Arts for new offices to house university staff.