A Conversation With The Architect of Jewish Harrisburg’s Future Space

The Jewish Federation of Greater Harrisburg has chosen Murray Associates Architects for the job of guiding the transformation of the former Dixon University Center on Front Street into the Alexander Grass Campus for Jewish Life. The Community Review asked Benedict Dubbs, who runs the firm located in Harrisburg, about the project. We discovered this is not the first time Murray Associates Architects has worked with the Jewish community.



CR:  What is the role of the architect on this project?


BD:  Murrays will complete all programming, architectural, and interior design services, including the existing building survey and analysis. We will work on the master planning, programming, and design, along with the documentation and construction administration.



CR:  You say you are very excited to be involved with this project. What is it about work on the Alexander

Grass Campus for Jewish Life that makes you so eager to be part of it?


BD:  The Jewish Federation has been a core community agency for decades. I am thrilled to assist in furthering its mission by designing a new home for the JCC which will provide more programs to more people. We take pride in designing a lot of the city’s community projects that positively impact the region.

Another reason we are excited to be involved in this project is that sustainability is one of Murrays’ core values.  This project will reuse the Dixon Center’s campus, bringing new life to multiple buildings and preserving “green space.”



CR:  This isn’t the first time Murray Associates has been involved in important projects in the Jewish Community. Correct?


BD:  Yes. Murray designed the original Front Street Jewish Community Center building in 1956. In fact, it was our 880th project from when we were founded in 1935. We are always grateful to be selected for important community projects, but to continue our history with past clients, such as the JCC,  is a complete honor and gives me great pride.



CR: Tell us about your firm? How long have you been in Harrisburg and what are some projects you have worked on in the area?


BD:  Our firm was established in 1935 as William Lynch Murray and Associates in Harrisburg. William’s son, Martin, took over the firm in 1974 as Murray Associates Architects, and I’ve been a managing principal there since 2000. Murrays’ mission is to provide unique sustainable design services meeting clients’ needs today and tomorrow.  To date, we are working on our 3,700th project, and one fourth of those have been within Harrisburg limits. They include the 18-story Market Square Plaza, the SciTech High School, and the Salvation Army of Harrisburg Capital City Region’s new Community & Worship Center. We also designed Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency’s original Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold corporate headquarters in 2004 and recently completed its LEED Platinum and Passive House addition. This project is the only one of its kind in the United States to date and has won numerous design awards, plus appeared in multiple national publications.



CR: What is the timetable for your work at The Campus?


BD: Murrays will be involved from start to finish of the project to ensure that the Jewish Federation’s vision comes to fruition in construction. Once we are engaged, our services will take approximately 4-5 months until a contractor is selected. At that point we will provide construction administration services until the JCC occupies the renovated spaces.



CR: What is the best part of starting a new project like The Campus? 


BD: Why, the possibilities, of course! We have the privilege of imagining multiple design solutions and working with our clients to select the best one that meets their financial budget, timeline, and future goals. What a wonderful experience to be a part of that!