Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Bethesda Mission gets OK for phase 2 of new community center

Harrisburg City Council in session on Tuesday night

Bethesda Mission has received the go-ahead to expand its community center on Herr Street, a plan that includes the demolition of the historic Shamrock Fire Station.

Harrisburg City Council on Tuesday night unanimously approved the project’s final land development plan, which allows the social service organization to demolish the 111-year-old fire station on the 1400-block of Herr Street and build a two-story structure in its place.

“The problem with the fire station is that it was built as a fire station,” said Bethesda Mission Executive Director Scott Dunwoody. “It’s not a well-functioning building at all for our needs.”

Originally, Bethesda Mission had planned to retain and renovate the fire station, where it has operated its teen center since 1990, as part of its expansion plan. It was going to connect to the building next door, the former Kurzenkabe Press facility, where Bethesda Mission is finishing up a $1.6 million renovation.

However, the organization later found that that plan would cost about $700,000 more—and would result in 700 square feet less space—than tearing down the fire station and building a new, two-story addition, which still is expected to cost $1.4 to $1.7 million.

Therefore, it changed its plan, requiring a new approval from the city Planning Commission and City Council.

Initially, the plan to demolish the fire station was opposed by the city’s Fire Bureau. However, Bethesda Mission adjusted its plan so that the addition would mimic the old station in design and materials used, said the city’s Planning Director Geoffrey Knight.

“They created a new design, a façade for Herr Street,” Knight said. “It will be a new construction but will largely reflect the design of the fire station and use materials similar to the fire station.”

Bethesda Mission also agreed to construct a pocket park and include a commemorative marker to honor a Shamrock firefighter who died after battling a fire at the Harrisburg Pipe and Pipe Bending plant in 1918.

Dunwoody said that the fire station would not be razed until the project begins. He hopes to complete fundraising by the end of 2019 and begin construction in 2020.

Together, the two buildings will total nearly 20,000 square feet–9,000 square feet from the press building renovation and 10,400 square feet from the new, two-story building.

“We’ve already been in North Allison Hill for 30 years,” Dunwoody said. “We believe this will allow us to serve there for another 30 to 50 years.”

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