Former S.C.I. Greensburg plans raise questions

April 25, 2018
Plans to create the Greensburg Veterans Sunrise Center, through development of the former SCI Greensburg, in Hempfield Township, begin with the removal of the fencing and window bars, as seen on Thursday, March 22, 2018.

A plan to turn the former State Correctional Institute-Greensburg prison into a full-service campus for veterans merits close attention by the Hempfield supervisors.

As Hempfield Supervisor Rob Ritson notes, the 96-acre site off Route 119 could be a commercial benefit because of its size and access to the Pennsylvania Turnpike and Interstate 70.

That’s not to mention the hundreds of veterans from all over the region that the people behind the project, dubbed the Greensburg Veterans Sunrise Center, would be helping.

The sales pitch has a great ring to it: “We’re going to transform it from a place of incarceration to one of liberation where veterans will be able to get back on their feet and return to society,” says project director Robert Wright.

Pretty much everything about the project is ambitious.

There’s the $100 million-plus in private money projected to be spent to convert 10 buildings into a “comprehensive veterans’ transition center,” developers have said. That includes transitional housing for 200 to 300 veterans and health care and job-training facilities.

A Florida-based nonprofit that breeds, trains and donates service dogs to veterans is negotiating to acquire 8 acres on the site to build a kennel.

Plans also call for a hydroponic greenhouse to be built on-site that another company of David Goldsmith’s, the Carlisle businessman behind the project, would use to grow and sell duckweed — a high-protein aquatic plant.

Goldsmith’s Verdant Holdings LLC is gearing up for construction set for the fall. Yet the company went before the township zoning hearing board last month to allow for a change to secure a “major” medical partner necessary to move forward that they did not have.

We also wonder whether the state and the federal Department of Veterans Affairs will sign onto it.

The township supervisors want to see the company’s final site plan, which is expected to be submitted soon.

Ritson rightfully notes that the plan sounds very good. But he’s also correct when he says, “The devil is in the details, and we haven’t seen the details yet.”