Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Cathedral Education Center gets HARB approval; fundraising campaign planned

The planned Cathedral Education Center would unite the Liberty Street school building (foreground) and the Shanahan Center (background).

Harrisburg’s Catholic parochial school has been given the go-ahead for a new education center, but it now needs to raise the funds for renovation and construction.

Last night, the project received unanimous approval from the Harrisburg Architectural Review Board (HARB), allowing the Cathedral Parish of St. Patrick to launch a capital campaign for the new Cathedral Education Center.

The $5.7 million project would renovate the circa-1950 Harrisburg Catholic Elementary School on Liberty Street and the 109-year-old Shanahan Center on North Street. A three-story, 3,250-square-foot addition between the buildings would be constructed, creating a single, unified structure totaling 26,475 square feet. Currently, the two buildings are separated by a small walkway.

HARB members did request a few design changes, most notably that the addition linking the buildings should include more windows and that the windows should be more vertically oriented.

“I’m really excited about this proposal personally,” said HARB Chair AJ Knee. “I like the concept of this [new] building being a wedge between the two [existing] buildings.”

The new education center would allow the parish to consolidate into one facility the current Cathedral Campus, which serves pre-K and grades 5-8 and is located behind St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and the Holy Family Campus, which serves grades K-4 and is located on Allison Hill. It also would give the parish more space for programming and improve wheelchair accessibility.

According to the parish, another benefit includes a new hall with a caterer’s kitchen that would seat as many as 190 people. It also would free up funds for parish programs that now go to building maintenance.

A rendering of the project, which shows the modern addition connecting the two existing buildings. Image courtesy of TKS Architects.

Dale Forney of Harrisburg-based JEM Group, the general contractor, told HARB members that he hopes to begin the project once school lets out next May and complete it in January or February 2020. However, the actual timing depends on the parish being able to raise the needed funds.

Kathy Speaker MacNett, who lives directly across the street from the Shanahan Center, characterized the project as another step forward in the continued redevelopment of the Capitol neighborhood.

“I am very excited about the project,” she said, citing several other projects nearby. “For the first time in my recollection, we actually have construction going in in our neighborhood–and not only construction but infilling.”

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