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High-tech greenhouse on tap for York city

Harrisburg University of Science and Technology is planting the seeds for construction of a high-tech greenhouse in downtown York as part of a potentially broader investment in the White Rose city.

  • The potential greenhouse project builds on the university’s Center for Advanced Agriculture and Sustainabilitywhich was seeded in early 2022 by a $1 million donation from grocery chain The Giant Co.
  • The university had been exploring sites for the center in and around Harrisburg, HU president Eric Darr said.
  • It is now moving forward with plans in York thanks to state funding, as well as donations from private-sector foundations and a Dutch company. Darr declined to disclose their names.
  • The centerpiece is a high-tech greenhouse that would grow fresh produce for city residents while spurring technological innovation, Darr said. 
  • “If this is successful, then it can be replicated across any number of cities like York throughout the commonwealth or elsewhere in the U.S.,” Darr said. “That’s the big thing that’s really exciting about this, if we can make this work commercially.”

Where is this happening: The university has a letter of intent to lease a church parking lot at 129 N. Beaver St., which is a block from the York Central Market, according to minutes of the York city planning commission.

  • “The church is excited to be a potential participant in what we view as an exciting project for downtown York,” said Eric Menzer, who is senior warden of the church, St. John Episcopal Church at 140 N. Beaver St.
  • If all goes as planned, construction could start this summer and wrap up by the end of the year, Darr said.
  • Part of the funding is coming from a grant made from the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, or RACP, to the Redevelopment Authority of the City of York
  • The $6 million grant had been earmarked for a mixed-use development in York’s Northwest Triangle area, a project that never came to fruition.
  • The money has now been reassigned to HU, said Blanda Nace, the authority’s executive director.
  • “The idea of linking technology to agriculture is a phenomenal idea — especially in York County, which has a great combination of both agriculture and advanced manufacturing,” Nace added.

What’s next: Harrisburg University is exploring a partnership with the York County Agricultural Society, which operates the York Fairgrounds.

  • The fairground, which has been struggling financially, would benefit from greater use of its site on the western edge of the city.
  • “We are excited by what this could mean to the YCAS, the York State Fair and the broader York County community,” Patrick Ball, interim CEO of the society, said in a statement.
  • Harrisburg University also would benefit, Darr said.
  • “This creates a tremendous educational opportunity and an opportunity to build the advanced agricultural workforce which is so desperately needed in Pennsylvania but across the U.S., as well,” Darr said.
  • The details of what the partnership would entail are still being worked out.

The background: Agriculture is one of five sectors singled out for attention in Gov. Josh Shapiro’s recently unveiled economic development strategy for the state.

Harrisburg University of Science and Technology is planting the seeds for construction of a high-tech greenhouse in downtown York as part of a potentially broader investment in the White Rose city.

  • The potential greenhouse project builds on the university’s Center for Advanced Agriculture and Sustainabilitywhich was seeded in early 2022 by a $1 million donation from grocery chain The Giant Co.
  • The university had been exploring sites for the center in and around Harrisburg, HU president Eric Darr said.
  • It is now moving forward with plans in York thanks to state funding, as well as donations from private-sector foundations and a Dutch company. Darr declined to disclose their names.
  • The centerpiece is a high-tech greenhouse that would grow fresh produce for city residents while spurring technological innovation, Darr said. 
  • “If this is successful, then it can be replicated across any number of cities like York throughout the commonwealth or elsewhere in the U.S.,” Darr said. “That’s the big thing that’s really exciting about this, if we can make this work commercially.”

Where is this happening: The university has a letter of intent to lease a church parking lot at 129 N. Beaver St., which is a block from the York Central Market, according to minutes of the York city planning commission.

  • “The church is excited to be a potential participant in what we view as an exciting project for downtown York,” said Eric Menzer, who is senior warden of the church, St. John Episcopal Church at 140 N. Beaver St.
  • If all goes as planned, construction could start this summer and wrap up by the end of the year, Darr said.
  • Part of the funding is coming from a grant made from the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, or RACP, to the Redevelopment Authority of the City of York
  • The $6 million grant had been earmarked for a mixed-use development in York’s Northwest Triangle area, a project that never came to fruition.
  • The money has now been reassigned to HU, said Blanda Nace, the authority’s executive director.
  • “The idea of linking technology to agriculture is a phenomenal idea — especially in York County, which has a great combination of both agriculture and advanced manufacturing,” Nace added.

What’s next: Harrisburg University is exploring a partnership with the York County Agricultural Society, which operates the York Fairgrounds.

  • The fairground, which has been struggling financially, would benefit from greater use of its site on the western edge of the city.
  • “We are excited by what this could mean to the YCAS, the York State Fair and the broader York County community,” Patrick Ball, interim CEO of the society, said in a statement.
  • Harrisburg University also would benefit, Darr said.
  • “This creates a tremendous educational opportunity and an opportunity to build the advanced agricultural workforce which is so desperately needed in Pennsylvania but across the U.S., as well,” Darr said.
  • The details of what the partnership would entail are still being worked out.

The background: Agriculture is one of five sectors singled out for attention in Gov. Josh Shapiro’s recently unveiled economic development strategy for the state.

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