Seton Hill study will explore potential health care-education corridor in Greensburg

Mar. 11—Officials at Seton Hill University believe the school's growing programs in health-related fields, in combination with nearby Westmoreland Hospital and surrounding medical practices, could provide the basis for a potential health care-education corridor in Greensburg.

The university calls the project "Growing Greensburg's Economy: Healthcare/Education."

"What will be interesting is how this could be a springboard for additional services in the health care area that may be needed, job creation and everything that comes along with that," said Annie Urban, executive director of principal gifts and community engagement for Seton Hill.

Seton Hill is partnering with the City of Greensburg, the recently combined Excela Health/Butler Health System that operates Westmoreland Hospital and other agencies to define a corridor concept and consider its potential.

City planning director Jeff Raykes, who is among partner representatives sitting on a project committee, suggested the corridor might not necessarily be a defined physical area.

He noted Seton Hill and the hospital are anchor institutions in the city.

"I think this is seeing how our interests and future plans overlap and complement each other," Raykes said.

Drawing upon a $200,000 grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, the university expects to hire a consultant who will conduct a market analysis and refine building and financing options.

The project committee will review proposals from potential consultants, which are due by April 5. According to the university, six consultants have expressed interest in attending a pre-proposal virtual meeting set for Wednesday.

Completion of the consultant's study is expected by the end of the year. Then the committee will help determine the next steps for the project.

The study is expected to lead to a 10-year plan that would build on existing university and community assets to foster job and educational growth in health fields.

The result would boost health care resources, economic development and commercial and residential development, according to the university.

The study will include a review of real estate that could be developed in the proposed corridor.

"Within the community, are there areas where offices or businesses will need to be located?" Urban said. "Are there existing places that can be renovated?"

Seton Hill has graduate and undergraduate students pursuing physician assistant, nursing, physical therapy, dietetics and nutrition degrees. It has music therapy and art therapy programs and, for the past 15 years, has offered a cooperative degree program with Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM).

LECOM has a facility on the Seton Hill campus that graduates about 100 doctors every year.

"We are committed to educating health care professionals who will stay in the region and serve the community," Seton Hill President Mary C. Finger said. "We look forward to working with our community partners to develop plans for a health care-education corridor that will serve the residents of Greensburg, Westmoreland County and surrounding counties."

Seton Hill's additional partners in the corridor project include LECOM; Westmoreland County Economic Growth Connection; Westmoreland County Redevelopment Authority and Land Bank; Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corp.; and Go Laurel Highlands, a regional tourism promotion organization. Other partners may be added.

Dr. Carol Fox, chief medical officer, said the Excela Health/Butler Health System is "looking forward to this collaboration and to the findings of the consultant as to how best to combine our resources and expertise. We have many strong partnerships that are helping advance health care resources for our community.

"While it is much too early in the process to speculate about outcomes, we are confident that the results will contribute to the continued betterment of our community."

Raykes said the corridor study could dovetail with the city's recently completed comprehensive plan update.

One of the questions that might surface in the study is what could replace the city's J. Edward Hutchinson Parking Garage. The garage opened in October 1979 to ease parking problems at the adjacent Westmoreland Hospital but was closed in 2021 because of high costs of maintenance and repair.

The hospital has noted it has significant free surface parking available for outpatients and visitors at multiple locations on its campus.

Greensburg Councilman Gregory Mertz said he is pleased that Seton Hill, through the corridor study, is looking to increase its involvement with the city.

"At the end of the day, we're talking about jobs, opportunities and education coming into the city of Greensburg," Mertz said.

Brian Lawrence, executive director of the county Redevelopment Authority and Land Bank, also serves on the project committee. He noted those entities "may have a role to play in the real estate aspect of the ultimate plan."

He said the corridor study could point to ways Seton Hill can expand upon its local economic impact.

"It goes well beyond Greensburg," he said.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff by email at or via Twitter .