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Harrisburg University pares back tower plan, construction still expected to exceed $100M

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

Harrisburg University of Science and Technology is still planning to build one of the tallest buildings in the capital city, but the plan for a new downtown tower has been pared back from the vision unveiled last fall.

University President Eric Darr on Thursday told the Business Journal that the new high-rise will include a health science education center for the university and a 200-room hotel and conference center with a restaurant.

However, the tower plan no longer includes student housing or a public parking garage.

The revisions to the plan will push what could have been a 36-story building with a price tag of $130 million to $150 million to a tower with 18 to 25 floors. Construction is still expected to exceed $100 million. The building will be at Chestnut and S. Third streets.

“Economically, student housing doesn’t work,” Darr said. “Frankly, there are other buildings in Harrisburg that work better and it would serve the city better to rehab them (for housing).”

Other university housing has been created through partnerships that renovated existing downtown buildings. Developer Dan Deitchman, for example, converted three properties in the 300 block of Market Street for student housing.

Darr also said a parking garage was eliminated from the plan because the city’s existing garages have room to accommodate the students, faculty and downtown visitors who will use the new tower.

In addition to its revised plans, Harrisburg University also said it has hired Butler County architect Alex Wing of Stantec, the architect who designed the university’s 16-story educational tower on Market Street, to draft the look of the new facility. A final design is expected by December, Darr said.

Over the next two months, the university hopes to hire a construction manager to begin the preconstruction phase of the tower. The university’s goal is to have financing in place by May or June 2019 and break ground by July 2019.

Construction is expected to take about two years and the facility could open by summer 2021.

“We’re still on target to do that,” Darr said.

Harrisburg University has budgeted $80 million to $100 million for the academic component of the project. The school’s current tower opened in 2009 with a price tag of $73 million.

The goal for the new tower is to have educational space to serve at least 1,000 new students, Darr said. “The space has to accommodate at least that many.”

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 has not yet decided on a hotel partner for the project and whether the in-house restaurant will be run by the same operator or a separate restaurateur.

With Harrisburg University enrollment on the rise, Darr said he also hopes to have an announcement over the next year on a new housing partnership.

“The need for student housing has not gone away,” he said. “It has actually increased.”

Harrisburg University could approach total enrollment of about 7,000 undergraduate, transfer and graduate students between its Harrisburg campus and its Philadelphia branch.

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