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Harrisburg University entertaining eight proposals for downtown tower

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Harrisburg University's current educational tower on Market Street in downtown Harrisburg.
Harrisburg University's current educational tower on Market Street in downtown Harrisburg. - (Photo / )

The first deadline in the effort to build a new high-rise in downtown Harrisburg has passed, and the early results are in.

Harrisburg University of Science and Technology received eight sealed proposals by a Friday deadline, an early milestone in the effort to erect a building dedicated to health sciences education, according to Eric Darr, the school's president.

Some came from local contractors. But Darr declined to name the parties involved.

An RFP went out in November for the project, slated for a site at Chestnut and S. Third streets, not far from UPMC Pinnacle's Harrisburg Hospital.

Harrisburg University is looking for development teams capable of putting up what could be the tallest building in the capital city at up to 36 stories when it opens in 2021.

The goal is to develop a mixed-use tower with a health science education center of about 200,000 square feet for the university, plus student housing, a public parking garage and other amenities that could benefit the broader community.

The university's early wish list included a boutique hotel, restaurant and conference center. Interested developers also were free to include other uses they would like to see attached to the university, such as residential condominiums or apartments and retail.

Darr said names of the companies vying for the project will be released in the coming weeks as the university's board chooses the finalists. He has said the tower could cost $130 million to $150 million to develop, but that will depend on the building's size and mix of amenities. The university, which will own the land and the educational component of the facility, also asked teams to propose various financing alternatives for ownership of the entire project.

"We're pleased with where we are," he said. "We'll take a couple of weeks to sort through proposals."

A final proposal is to be selected by April 10, at which time contract negotiations can begin with that team, according to the RFP.

Darr said he hopes to have a final contract in place by 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 tower will not only benefit Harrisburg University's growth, but also should help increase investor confidence in downtown Harrisburg, which could lead to other development projects.

"I would hope that is case," Darr said. "As this project moves forward and takes shape, think about what somebody else might bring to piggyback on top."

Smaller housing and mixed-use projects have been popping up downtown over the last few years. Harristown Enterprises, owner of Strawberry Square, has been leading the charge to bring more people and businesses downtown.

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Jason Scott

Jason Scott

Jason Scott covers state government, real estate and construction, media and marketing, and Dauphin and Cumberland counties. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at jscott@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @JScottJournal.

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