If The Dickinson School of Law stays in Carlisle, it could move just a few blocks from its home of 169 years. The school's Board of Governors expects to spend the next several months studying its options for Dickinson -- to stay in Carlisle or move to State College.
That looming decision has prompted midstate officials to begin preparing financial and development packages on local sites for a possible move, officials and industry leaders confirmed Monday and yesterday.
One of those potential sites is the borough's hospital, three blocks from the law school.
Research on local sites has been under way since a Pennsylvania State University proposal to build Dickinson a $60 million home in State College surfaced this month.
The move is being considered because the law school's campus has outdated facilities and little room to expand.
Local efforts accelerated when the law school board announced on Saturday that it would keep open the possibility of expanding in Carlisle.
Local leaders need to know: "What kind of package does Dickinson need to stay in Carlisle" said Dave Black, president of the Capital Region Economic Development Corporation.
"We think there are some options here that could be developed. I'd like the law school ... to ask for some help," said Christopher Gulotta, executive director of the Cumberland County Redevelopment Authority.
"We have some substantive proposals that we can bring to the table," he said.
LeRoy Zimmerman, Dickinson board chairman, said he will listen to local proposals. His first step will be to select board committees to contact student, alumni, faculty and community groups to gauge interest in staying in Carlisle or moving.
"It appears that the numbers seem to be building to keep the law school in south central Pennsylvania," Cumberland County Commissioner Rick Rovegno said. "We hope that a 169-year tradition won't be cast out. The opportunities [for law students] in this area cannot be replicated in State College."
Liz Syer, a third-year Dickinson student, said the busy Penn State setting would interfere with the hours law students must spend in serious study.
She said she fears Dickinson professors would be less accessible and that opportunities for internships would drop dramatically if Dickinson moved north.
If the school grows in Carlisle, it may expand its existing buildings, refurbish the hospital or another building, or construct a school on an undeveloped site.
Gulotta declined to reveal the locations he is studying.
But Black told Penn State President Graham Spanier that CREDC will work with the redevelopment authority and Carlisle Borough to develop proposals that could feed federal or state funds into such projects.
This fall, CREDC helped Dickinson College put together a $1 million deal to buy the former Reeves-Hoffman crystal processing plant next to its campus. Black helped the college -- which abuts but is not affiliated with the law school -- to find state money to clean up toxins and prepare the plant for renovation.
Law school officials said last week that there was preliminary talk of converting Carlisle's hospital building into classrooms when the hospital moves to South Middleton Twp. in 2006.
Borough Council President Steve Fishman said leaders are waiting for Dickinson to make the next move.
"We believe it has certainly been made clear to them that we have a vested interest in helping them do whatever is necessary to move the law school forward, both in facilities and academic standing," Fishman said.
ELIZABETH GIBSON: 249-2006 or egibson@patriot- news.com
PHOTO; DAN GLEITER; Caption: If The Dickinson School of Law stays in Carlisle, it may expand its existing buildings, refurbish Carlisle Hospital or another building, or build a school on an undeveloped site.