Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Harrisburg Planning Commission approves revised, 11-story design for HU academic building

An aerial rendering of HU’s building following the redesign

The city got its first look on Tuesday night at a revised design for a planned academic building for downtown Harrisburg.

At a special meeting of the city Planning Commission, Harrisburg University presented its plan for an 11-story building at the corner of Chestnut and S. 3rd streets.

“The revised design is very similar to what was approved (previously),” said David Alessi, senior associate at Stantec, the project’s design and engineering firm.

Last year, the commission approved plans for a 17-story building and a 10-story, 197-room hotel. However, HU’s hotel partner, Harrisburg-based HHM, was unable to secure financing for that portion of the project, said HU President Eric Darr.

“We worked with multiple finance partners, but we couldn’t wait any longer,” Darr told commission members.

The problem, he said, was comparative. He said that project analysis showed that the hotel would be profitable. Nonetheless, potential financiers felt that they could get an even better return by committing their money to projects in other cities, he said.

Darr said that HU’s analysis showed “a clear demand for a hotel in the city of Harrisburg.”

With the loss of the hotel, HU cut the project’s size by about one-third, proceeding solely with an educational building. The $100-million, 260,000-square-foot facility will house HU’s new Health Science Education Center.

Planning Commission members seemed satisfied with the design, complimenting HU for adding brick to the façade and for aligning the design with HU’s current tower on Market Street.

“I like how it blends in with HU’s tower,” said commissioner Zachary Monnier. “It’s matching up with the building.”

The new design also eliminates a planned curb cut along Chestnut Street, which some city officials had criticized.

Following HU’s presentation, the commission unanimously approved the new development plan, which now must be approved by City Council.

HU has already cleared the site at S. 3rd and Chestnut streets, but hasn’t yet started to build the structure. Assuming the revised development plan passes muster with council, HU expects the building to begin to take shape this summer and be completed in late 2021.

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