Revitalization of former high school to create new jobs; improve food insecurity

Cris Collingwood//May 20, 2022

Revitalization of former high school to create new jobs; improve food insecurity

Cris Collingwood//May 20, 2022

Representatives from Empower at the Bridge Foundation and The GIANT Company join Gov. Tom Wolf at ribbon-cutting for GIANT Bleacher Garden recently – PHOTO/PROVIDED

The new GIANT Bleacher Garden at the former Bishop McDevitt High School is being revitalized and will create 225 new jobs. 

Gov. Tom Wolf and First Lady Frances Wolf visited the garden Friday which is being transformed by Empower at The Bridge Foundation into a community resource with support from a $4 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant. 

The center will fully revitalize the vacant location with a variety of commercial use areas, indoor and outdoor urban agriculture, sustainable housing, education centers, co-working spaces, and more, Wolf said. While improving local food security and creating affordable housing, the project will also create paying jobs and training and workforce opportunities. 

“When we work together, communities can be revitalized and success ensured,” Wolf said. “What these organizations are doing here in Harrisburg is a model to be replicated. My $4 million investment combined with immense private support is going to create jobs and economic opportunity while simultaneously addressing immediate and basic needs for residents of Harrisburg, it’s a culmination of my administration’s priorities addressed by one eco-village.” 

The Wolf administration awarded the grant to Empower at the Bridge Foundation in April for the renovations.  

The GIANT Bleacher Garden aims to repurpose the now unusable infrastructure to create a high-yielding foodscape. It’s projected to yield enough fresh, local produce to supply 120 families with 50 pounds of vegetables over the course of the growing season. The garden is a partnership between The GIANT Company, The Bridge Foundation, and Harrisburg City F.A.R.M. 

Wolf created the Urban Agriculture Infrastructure Program in the 2019 Pennsylvania Farm Bill. 

The program, which is the first of its kind in the nation and the model for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Urban Agriculture and Innovation Program, has provided $1.5 million in state funding and generated $1.5 million in local investments for more than 100 projects across the commonwealth.  

 “At The GIANT Company, we know that we must work together to truly change the world. By joining forces, we can and will make a lasting difference in Harrisburg,” said Glennis Harris, senior vice president of customer experience, The GIANT Company. “We are proud to be a part of this transformative project with the GIANT Bleacher Garden, which will increase access to fresh, nutritious produce and connect families for a better future.”