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$11M dance, exhibits center in Greensburg not expected to burden taxpayers

| Friday, July 26, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

The last funding piece for Seton Hill University's project to build an arts center in downtown Greensburg was finalized Thursday by Westmoreland County.

The project won approval from both the county commissioners and the Westmoreland County Industrial Development Authority to loan the college up to $7 million.

Seton Hill officials expect to break ground on Monday on construction of an $11 million dance and visual arts center on Otterman Street in Greensburg.

The loan is not expected to cost county taxpayers a dime. Officials said the authority will borrow the money, then lend it to the college. The deal will enable the college to take advantage of lower interest rates charged to the quasi-governmental body.

Industrial Development Authority solicitor Alan Berk said board members approved the loan Thursday morning.

County commissioners voted to support the plan, but in doing so offered no financial backing. The commissioners' approval was necessary so the project qualifies for federal tax exemptions, according to county officials.

Seton Hill business manager Chuck O'Neill said Thursday the financial package includes state grants and private contributions.

O'Neill said the project is expected to benefit the college and the city.

“We hope it will increase business in town,” he said.

The college is building a 50,000-square-foot center that includes studios, an art gallery, metal and clay workshops and classrooms.

Pennsylvania first lady Susan Corbett, Board of Trustees' Chairwoman Michele Ridge and Bibiana Boerio, who begins her role as Seton Hill's interim president on Aug. 1, will be among the officials and dignitaries participating in the invitation-only groundbreaking ceremonies Monday.

The projected opening for the center is August 2014.

“We will serve not only Seton Hill undergraduate programs in arts, but there is also a very strong community arts program,” said Seton Hill controller Paul Edsall.

The authority issued a $1.2 million loan to the college in 2009 to help build the Seton Hill Center for the Arts. The $21 million project to house a 73,000 square-foot performing arts center opened later that year.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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