Jewish Federation purchases headquarters of Pennsylvania State University system on 6.5 acres in Harrisburg

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The Greater Harrisburg Jewish Federation has a new home.

He announced Friday that his bid had been accepted for the purchase of the 6.5-acre Dixon University Center campus which now houses the headquarters of the State System of Higher Education in Pennsylvania. He plans to change the name to Alexander Grass Campus for Jewish Life.

“We are just delighted,” said Jennifer Ross, president and CEO of the federation. “The campus gives us a footprint to serve many more people in our community, and it enables us to better fulfill our respective organizational missions in collaboration with each other. “

The property located between Front and Second streets includes six brick buildings and an underground garage.

Under federation ownership, it will serve as a hub for Jewish life in Harrisburg, centralizing and elevating the services and resources of the region’s Jewish community.

The federation plans to use the campus for all of its programs and activities, including the Brenner Family Early Learning Center, the Jewish Family Service of Greater Harrisburg, and Silver Academy, the Jewish school in central Pennsylvania.

He also plans to open a senior center there serving the entire Harrisburg area community, Jewish and non-Jewish, and will rent office space in one of the buildings.

In addition to improving the quality of Jewish life in Greater Harrisburg through philanthropy, education, social services, the arts, culture, health and wellness, Abby Smith, president of the board of directors of the federation, said that this campus will benefit the community as a whole, regardless of religious affiliation.

The federation hopes to complete the purchase by the end of this year or early 2022. It plans to sell the property it currently owns at 3301 N. Front Street, Harrisburg, less than three blocks north. of Dixon University Center once the move is complete. , said Smith.

“We will not be in a situation where we are not building,” she said. “We will not be closing our operations at any time. We will be making a gradual move into the new property as different components are ready to be entered. We plan to do this as early as the fall of next year.

The state system decided to sell the underutilized property owned by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as an economy movement. It received the blessing of the General Assembly last fall to bring it to market.

System spokesman Cody Jones said the sale is still being finalized so details, including the purchase price, are not ready to be released.

The system plans to temporarily relocate its head office to a space it leases for its IT needs in a building in Vartan Way in Susquehanna Township. The money saved from the move to smaller premises will be spent on overhauling the system, which includes consolidating six of its 14 universities into two institutions, system officials said.

The property has been in the hands of the system since 1991. It has carried out extensive renovations to the historic buildings that for decades housed Harrisburg Academy, one of the oldest private schools in the country, now operating on the West Coast. . It also served as a temporary home for Harrisburg Area Community College during the construction of its Wildwood campus in the mid to late 1960s.

The federation will carry out renovations to redevelop the space of its preschool learning center and restore Duncan Hall “to its former glory as a gymnasium, basketball court with locker rooms,” Smith said. She added that the meeting and office space and classrooms on campus are well suited for their intended uses.

One of the buildings will be dedicated to the new center for the elderly, she said.

“We currently have many programs for seniors, but it will be a space specifically designed to meet the needs of the senior community and all of Harrisburg,” said Smith. “We always believed there was an opportunity to better serve our senior population. “

Smith said this new home for the federation will give him a foothold for the future.

“It really lays the groundwork for generations to come for Jewish Harrisburg to create a space that centralizes and truly uplifts all that our community has to offer and brings us together in a wonderful way so that we can collaborate and do more within of the Jewish community. and do more in the community at large, ”said Smith.

She also paid tribute to campus namesake Alex Grass and his family for their generosity in making this purchase possible.

“It’s really monumental in the Jewish community here and in the Jewish community in general to know that there is a future for communities our size to have that kind of Jewish continuity,” Smith said.

Jan Murphy can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @JanMurphy.


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