On a hill above Greensburg stands Seton Hill University, with growing enrollments and new academic programs creating a need for new facilities. Over the last 10 years, the University has expanded its program offerings to over 30 undergraduate programs and 9 graduate programs, including an MBA. Today, more than 2000 students are enrolled at Seton Hill.
At the bottom of Seton Hill’s long entrance drive is the redeveloping Cultural District of Greensburg. A few years ago, Seton Hill, along with the City of Greensburg, Westmoreland County, the Redevelopment Authority of the County of Westmoreland, the Greensburg Salem School District, local legislators, and the Westmoreland Cultural Trust met to explore the feasibility of working together to further renew downtown Greensburg while addressing the University’s facility needs.
The project that the partners embraced is the construction of a cultural center – The Seton Hill University Center for the Performing Arts. The Center for the Performing Arts will bring two of Seton Hill’s most vibrant programs – Theatre and Music – into the heart of the City. The Center will also serve as the completing piece of the Cultural District, with the Westmoreland Museum of American Art at one corner and Seton Hill University at the other, linked by the historic Palace Theatre, the restored Greensburg Train Station, cafes, restaurants and bookstores.
Now in the construction phase, this well-designed project with its strong community partnerships has garnered attention and support from all levels of government and the private sector. The City, County and State have stepped forward with financial commitments, as have alumni, individuals, corporations, and private regional and national foundations. In April of 2004, Pa. Governor Ed Rendell awarded a $5 million grant in support of the project, because, in his words:
“It creates a stronger cultural, educational and mercantile base in Greensburg that will serve Seton Hill students, encourage tourism, and create jobs. When Seton Hill approached me about this project they weren’t asking for money for up on their campus. They wanted to come down here and work with the City of Greensburg… Seton Hill’s new programs are going to make Greensburg sparkle. Pennsylvania’s cities are coming back, and Greensburg is going to lead the way!”
- 73,000 square feet
- located at the corner of Harrison Ave. and W. Otterman St. in downtown Greensburg
- designed to complement the architecture of the surrounding buildings
- to house Seton Hill’s programs in Music and Theatre, which have outgrown their spaces on campus
- flexible theatre – 225 seats
- music hall – 450 seats
- rehearsal spaces
- set & costume design rooms
- classrooms and faculty offices
- community music wing
features three levels:
- Lower level: costume shop, dressing rooms, teaching studios, practice rooms, computer labs for music and theatre, classrooms, restrooms and faculty offices
- Main level: music hall, flexible theatre, grand lobby, scene & paint shop, performance studio, rehearsal space, concession area, box office, elevator, restrooms
- Upper level: catwalks and control rooms for the performance spaces
Architects: MacLachlan, Cornelius & Filoni Architects, Inc. of Pittsburgh, Pa.
General Contractor: Massaro Corporation of Pittsburgh, Pa.
The Partners & Their Roles
Seton Hill University – will provide funding for construction and take the lead on construction project management
The City of Greensburg – is working with Seton Hill in all phases of development, site preparation and construction
The Redevelopment Authority of the County of Westmoreland – obtained the properties on the site of the Center, demolished existing structures, prepared the site for construction and transferred the site to Seton Hill
The County of Westmoreland – support and guidance
The Greensburg Salem School District – support and guidance
The Westmoreland Cultural Trust – support and guidance, helped fund the initial conceptual design for the project
Local, Commonwealth and Federal Legislators and Agencies – support and funding
Cost & Funding
The total projected cost of the project is $21 million. This total includes:
- $19.6 million in construction costs, which include bricks and mortar construction along with architect fees, engineering and consulting fees, furnishings, fixtures and equipment within the building, and a generous contingency; and
- $1.4 million in land site and preparation costs.
As of March 2008, Seton Hill has raised $20.2 million for the University Center project. This number represents contributions from Seton Hill trustees, alumni, faculty, students, staff and friends; private foundations; corporations; and federal, state and local government.
A feasibility study done by Teeter Associates, Inc. of Greensburg in 2005 indicates that Seton Hill has the capacity to raise the total funds needed for the completion of the Center.
Michele Ridge, alumna and Chair of Seton Hill’s Board of Trustees and her husband Tom Ridge, the former Governor of Pennsylvania, are serving as Campaign co-chairs along with Greensburg civic leaders Anne and Jack Robertshaw. The University is fortunate to benefit from their long-standing support and fund raising expertise.
The groundbreaking ceremony was held November 1, 2006.
Buildings previously on the site were demolished and the site cleared for construction.
New construction officially began August 28, 2007.
The University Center for the Performing Arts is scheduled to open in the 2009 - 2010 academic year.
The Economic Impact
An economic impact study done by Mullin & Lonergan Associates projects that the University Center will generate:
- over 635 new jobs (permanent & temporary) as a result of construction spending
- $7 million in total wages for non-construction jobs
- over 350,000 in new state and local taxes
- $1 million plus in annual visitor spending
It is expected that the construction project alone will add $10.6 million to the region in direct spending (construction materials, professional services, labor) with an additional $7.6 million in indirect spending (spending by businesses and individuals on wages that are again re-spent in the local economy).
Additional Public/Private Development in Greensburg
Since Seton Hill announced its plans to construct the University Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Greensburg, approximately $78.6 million in additional public/private development has been initiated. These developments are within a three-block radius of Seton Hill’s project and include:
- a new Commonwealth of Pennsylvania office building for 250 state employees on Main Street;
- a new office building to house the Pa. Dept. of Health on West Otterman Street;
- a new Westmoreland Excela Health Center for Cardiovascular Disease;
- a four-story addition to the Westmoreland County Courthouse Square Annex;
- a conversion of the Troutman Building in Greensburg to condos for downtown living;
- the renovation of Offutt Field through a joint project between the Greensburg Salem School District and Seton Hill University;
- new restaurants moving into the area;
- enhancements to Greensburg streets and pedestrian walkways;
- construction of three new parking lots by the City of Greensburg;
- completion of a second entrance to the Train Station that will connect a new parking area with the University Center for the Performing Arts; and
- improvements to the College Avenue tunnel.
Seton Hill has already experienced enrollment growth in its Music, Dance and Theatre programs since announcing the creation of the new University Center for the Performing Arts. Current enrollment in Theatre (including dance) and Music is 150, which represents a 92% increase since 2004. The Community Music Program (all ages) and Seton Hill University Dance Academy (ages 5 – 18) together have 300 students enrolled.