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Panel pushes for arts center at Seton Hill

| Tuesday, April 30, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Greensburg's planning commission on Monday approved plans for a new Seton Hill University Dance and Visual Arts Center.

In a 4-1 vote, the advisory panel recommended that city council approve the site and land development plans for the center.

Council is expected to vote on the proposal during its May 13 meeting.

Commission members Jeff Anzovino, Anita Simpson, George Smith and Brian Lawrence endorsed the plans, which call for the center to be constructed at the intersection of West Otterman Street and College Avenue. Karen Hutchinson voted no.

“I think it's a bad intersection and bad planning on how it fits in that parcel of property,” Hutchinson said later.

She said she further opposed the plans because Seton Hill won't have to pay taxes on the building as a nonprofit.

In January, the commission tabled a vote on the project to allow university officials time to answer questions commission members raised during that meeting. Seton Hill then requested delays in the review.

Those approving the plans on Monday set the conditions that the center receive approvals from PennDOT for a highway occupancy permit and the state Department of Environmental Protection for sewage planning modules.

The 46,000-square-foot center will be placed on 0.86 acres of land.

The facility would include three dance studios, one of which will be a semi-performance space seating about 50 people. Two practice studios that will be used by 10 to 25 students are planned.

The two-story building is to have two galleries, including a formal one, and classrooms.

The center will have a permitted occupancy of up to 835 people, architect Gary Balog said, answering a question the commission asked in January.

The average daily occupancy will range from 50 to 350 people, he said. Evening performances could bring 100 to 150 more people to the center, Balog said.

Students will come to the center via a university-operated shuttle or by foot.

The facility has six parking spaces to the rear and will mostly depend on city parking garages or lots, or on downtown spaces.

A student drop-off area in front of the building and directly off West Otterman Street has been increased in size to accommodate concerns expressed by the planning commission, Balog said.

That area will accommodate the largest vehicles expected to be there, the architect added.

In January, Seton Hill officials said they hoped to begin using the building in late summer 2014.

Data shows Seton Hill's move into the city's downtown has helped the university and Greensburg, Mary Ann Gawelek, university provost, told the planning commission.

Seton Hill opened the university's arts center at West Otterman and Harrison Avenue in 2009.

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or bstiles@tribweb.com.

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