New park, municipal campus to replace outdated Swatara Township building

Jennifer Wentz//October 11, 2016

New park, municipal campus to replace outdated Swatara Township building

Jennifer Wentz//October 11, 2016

Police officers have to carry their bicycles down a flight of stairs to store them after bike patrols.

Boxes are stuffed wherever the township’s nearly 90 employees can find space in the 47-year-old building they outgrew years ago.

Township officials hope to solve these problems, and give the community a new park to boot, when they build a new municipal campus and public park.

The campus will find a home on the Bishop Farm property on Highland Street, which the township purchased for roughly $1 million in 2012, said Jan LeBlanc, Swatara Township’s manager.

Officials hope to award bids in December 2017 and break ground in spring 2018, LeBlanc said, noting the project is still in early planning stages.

What will the campus include?

That depends largely on what the public wants, LeBlanc said.

Residents can fill out a survey on the township’s website to let officials know if they want an ampitheater, dog park, hiking trails or other features.

They can also attend an open house at the current township building, 599 Eisenhower Blvd., on Oct. 29 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. to fill out a survey in-person.

The open house will let the public see just how much the township has outgrown the facility it has called home for nearly half a century, LeBlanc said.

The new campus will likely stand out among the township’s 16 parks, many of which are small “tot lots,” LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc estimates the municipal building or buildings will take up roughly 10 to 12 acres of the 60-acre Bishop Farm, a slight increase over the current 6.2-acre property, which, LeBlanc said, includes some wasted spaces like wide hallways and unusable open areas.

A portion of the property could also be set aside for future township needs, like a new fire station, although LeBlanc does not anticipate the township taking on another large project in the near future.

How much will it cost?

Right now LeBlanc said the township doesn’t know how much it will cost.

The township has about $3 million in the bank to use for the project. It is also debt-free on its current building, which it plans to sell, LeBlanc said. Comparable sales fall in the $2.7 million range for the current building, which would put the township’s starting point of funds for the new project at $6 million. 

The remaining cost will have to be funding through a bond issue and possible grants, LeBlanc said.

Who is designing it?

The Bishop Farm property, which the township currently leases to farmers, will present some unique challenges for designers.

Highland Street bisects the nearly 60-acre plot, which is full of steep hills. A tributary also runs through the property, creating some potentially sensitive wetland areas, and planners will need to find a way to seemlessly combine the park with the township’s other needs.

It’s a challenge the project’s architects – Harrisburg-based Landscape Architecture firm H. Edward Black and Associates, Ltd. and Conshohocken-based architecture firm Kimmel Bogrette Architecture Site – are ready to take on.

Edward has worked on several other projects in Swatara Township, including Woodlands townhome development and Upper Allen Township municipal site. The company has also won awards for its work on the Harrisburg Greenbelt.

What’s nearby?

Park-goers will be an easy drive from Bob Evans, Wyndham Garden Harrisburg/Hershey and a number of other destinations adjacent to the park.

Several other businesses, including Harbour House Crabs and another hotel, also have plans to move next-door to the property.

Updated: This story has been corrected from its original story. Township officials don’t have a figure yet as to how much the new building will cost.