Harrisburg University taps Hersha company as hotel partner on 17-story tower

//April 8, 2019

Harrisburg University taps Hersha company as hotel partner on 17-story tower

//April 8, 2019

Harrisburg University of Science and Technology has named a hotel company with Harrisburg roots as its hospitality partner on the university’s new academic tower, which is slated for construction at Chestnut and South Third streets in downtown Harrisburg.

The university on Monday said HHM, formerly known as Hersha Hospitality Management, will be building an upscale, 197-room boutique-style hotel as part of the 17-story tower project, which is expected to open in 2021.

HHM, which has corporate offices in Harrisburg and Philadelphia, is a hotel management, investment and development firm that operates 125 hotels across the country. That list includes hotels owned by Hersha Hospitality Trust, a publicly traded real estate investment trust with offices in Harrisburg and Philadelphia. The two companies are affiliated through Hersha Hotels and Resorts.

Harrisburg University is planning a 17-story academic tower with a hotel at the corner of Chestnut and South Third streets in Harrisburg. Pictured is a rendering (center) of the tower. (Photo: File)

“This is a natural partnership for us,” HHM CEO Naveen Kakarla said in a news release. “Hersha is ingratiated in the Harrisburg community and we are honored to lend our expertise to this exciting project in the city where our company began.”

University President Eric Darr said the hotel space in the tower has been designed to the standards of Marriott’s Autograph Collection Hotels, though a final decision hasn’t been made about the hotel’s brand. David McCaslin, HHM’s executive vice president, said the company is still negotiating the brand, but he expects a decision will be made this summer.

“We talked to them from the very beginning about being part of this project,” Darr said. “I’m happy that it all worked out.”

Harrisburg University still needs to secure city approvals to begin construction on the tower. Darr is hoping to have that approval this spring so construction can start around July.

The project began with a vision in 2017 for a 36-story tower with student housing and a public parking garage. The scaled-down version will now cost the university about $100 million, not including the hotel portion. A first-floor restaurant also is included in the plan, though a partner has not yet been named.

Darr said last month that the hotel would add another $30 million to $35 million to the construction tab. McCaslin confirmed that price range. He also said HHM believes this new hotel will complement the nearby Hilton and Crowne Plaza hotels, which have large meeting and event spaces.

“We believe we will help them attract more group business into the downtown,” McCaslin said.

HHM also expects the tower will drive more daily foot traffic to retail shops and restaurants in the downtown.

“Harrisburg University has done a great job of helping to revive their part of downtown,” he added. “We think this new product will help bring new people downtown.”

The university and the hotelier would share space on 10 floors. The remaining seven floors would be used entirely by Harrisburg University.

The educational space in the tower is expected to accommodate at least 1,000 new students and a health science education center that would serve degree programs in nursing, pharmaceutical sciences and other allied health programs. The university also will have classrooms and training space for advanced manufacturing and interactive media programs, the latter fueled by the esports boom at Harrisburg University.