Harrisburg University decides on 19-story tower, hires preconstruction firms

This parking lot at Chestnut and South Third streets in Harrisburg is the location of a proposed 19-story tower being developed by Harrisburg University of Science and Technology. - (Photo / File)

Harrisburg University of Science and Technology has checked a few more items off its construction wish list this holiday season as the university prepares next year to build a second academic tower in the capital city.

University President Eric Darr said Thursday that the university has hired preconstruction services firms to help finalize the costs of the design and that the size of the building – 19 stories – has been determined.

Harrisburg-based Reynolds Enterprises Inc. and The Whiting-Turner Contracting Co., based in Baltimore, have been hired to support Butler County architect Alex Wing of Stantec on plans for the building.

The new tower, which is slated for the corner of Chestnut and South Third streets, will include a health science education center for the university and a 180-room hotel and conference center with a restaurant.

The vision for the tower last year was a 36-story building, but that was pared down in the fall to 18 to 25 floors as early plans for student housing and a public parking garage were cut out.

“We now know how big the building is and roughly what is on each floor,” Darr said.

The next step is determining mechanical equipment needs to support operations on each floor, he said, which will help set the final price tag. That process should wrap up this winter.

Harrisburg University hopes to be seeking city construction approvals by February, finalize the project’s financing by May or June, and start construction by the middle of next summer. Three vacant buildings on the property will be demolished between winter and spring, Darr said, to make room for the new construction, which is expected to take about two years. The facility could open by summer 2021.

Darr said he expects the entire project to cost between $120 million and $130 million. The university has budgeted $80 million to $100 million for the academic component of the project.

Harrisburg University is currently negotiating with regional hotel and restaurant operators to fill out the rest of the project. Darr said 10 of the floors would be shared between the university and hospitality partners. The remaining nine floors would be used entirely by Harrisburg University.

The goal for the new tower is to have educational space that can serve at least 1,000 new students, Darr said. The health science education center would serve degree programs in nursing, pharmaceutical sciences and other allied health programs to help regional health care providers find employees.

Darr also said the university intends to have floors dedicated to advanced manufacturing and interactive media programs, the latter fueled by the rise of esports at Harrisburg University. The university just unveiled a new training facility for the esports program.  

The school’s current academic tower at 326 Market St. opened in 2009 with a price tag of $73 million. That building has 16 floors.

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.

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