Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Healthcare & a Hotel: HU plans mixed-use high-rise in downtown Harrisburg

Harrisburg University has identified this site at S. 3rd and Chestnut streets as the location for a new high-rise building.

A new high-rise may soon add to downtown Harrisburg’s skyline, as Harrisburg University of Science and Technology plans to issue a request for proposals tomorrow for a new, mixed-use building.

According to the RFP, the proposed building at Chestnut and S. 3rd streets would house the school’s emerging Health Science Education Center, from which it would offer degree programs in nursing, pharmaceutical sciences and other health programs.

The RFP is asking for bids of at least 200,000 square feet for educational space, plus housing for more than 300 students. The building, currently proposed to be 36 stories, may also contain amenities such as a boutique hotel, restaurant, executive conference center and/or fitness facility.

The school envisions the building as a high-rise on parcels that include 222 Chestnut St., currently a surface parking lot owned by Vartan Enterprises, and 24, 26 and 28 S. 3rd St., which contain small commercial buildings owned by Mechanicsburg-based Dauphin Land Co. Under the RFP, those low-rise, 19th-century commercial buildings would be demolished.

HU President Eric Darr said that the current property owners have agreed to sell their parcels to HU for the project. He added that the proposed location was perfectly situated between UPMC Pinnacle and the university’s main academic building on Market Street.

“Being a block away from Harrisburg Hospital makes all the sense in the world,” said Darr, who estimates the total cost of the project at $120 to $140 million and construction to last about two years.

HU has set Feb. 2 as the deadline for responses, with a proposal selection date of April 10. An evaluation committee comprised of members of the university’s executive staff, board of trustees and outside advisers will evaluate the proposals.

The RFP is flexible in terms of deal structure and financing. It states that the university would consider a variety of options, including purchase, lease, leaseback and lease-purchase.

The RFP broadly states that the building would be a condominium in structure with these separate parts:

  • A health sciences facility of at least 159,300 square feet to include a nursing school, a pharmacy school, a physical therapy school and classroom space (Darr said that HU has since upped that requirement to at least 200,000 square feet.)
  • Student housing of about 191,000 square feet with a total 323 beds
  • A 144-room hotel comprising 98,150 square feet
  • A 28,650-square-foot conference center

Developers are free to include their own additions, such as apartments and residential condominiums.

In fact, Darr said that he views these criteria as mere guidelines and is encouraging potential developers to be “as creative as possible.”

“I don’t want them to think we’re locked into a particular design, because we’re not,” he said.

The design should also include enough parking to meet city requirements for such a building, Darr said.

“To say this is an important project for downtown is a bit of an understatement,” said Brad Jones, president and CEO of Harristown Enterprises, which recently has developed several buildings downtown and plans several more. “We are very excited about it.”

This structure would be HU’s second major building downtown, complementing its current high-rise on Market Street. HU was founded in 2001 and recently has experienced rapid growth.

You can view the RFP here: RFP Health Sciences Project.Nov 16 2017

This story was updated to includes comment from HU President Eric Darr.



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