Recommended approval on the way for Cranberry Woods Apartments

Live, work, play focuses of project

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In land use circles, the motto "Live, work and play" is more than a life mantra.

It's a call to plan for developments that allow people to live, work and play in a community so well designed for interconnectedness that vehicles can be a thing of the past.

The newest residential community being planned for Cranberry epitomizes that philosophy, which is why township staffers will recommend approval of the plan for Cranberry Woods Apartments in February.

"This is a big deal. It's just the kind of development that fits with our comprehensive plan," planning director Ron Henshaw said.

Cranberry Woods Apartments is a housing plan that mixes apartments, townhomes and live-work units -- apartments above commercial shops -- amidst the thousands of jobs headquartered at the Cranberry Woods office park on the south side of Route 228.

The units will be spread among four sites: a 122,594-square-foot building of 88 apartments, a community center and an office for an on-site manager; a 64,164-square-foot building for four townhomes and 41 apartments; a 72,234-square-foot building for four townhomes and 47 apartments; and a 152,220-square-foot building for two live-work units and 116 apartments.

All residential units will be rental properties.

The buildings will occupy about 18 acres along Interstate 79, accessed by Cranberry Woods Drive.

Development of the parcel leaves only one 30-acre parcel undeveloped.

Mr. Henshaw said no plans have been submitted for that final parcel.

The site has a zoning overlay known as CCD -- community character district -- that encourages a pedestrian-oriented design.

That zoning overlay was approved in September 2011 at the request of Mine Safety Appliances, owner of the project. MSA is headquartered in one of the existing 11 office buildings on the site that is home to Westinghouse Corp. MSA has hired Trammell Crow Co. of Pittsburgh to develop the complex and Johnson Development Co. of Houston to manage it.

Mr. Henshaw said the details of the plan are exactly what township officials wanted and are the result of close consultation throughout the design process.

"They were great to deal with," he commented.

He said a road runs through the middle of the plan with the buildings pushed close to the one-way roadway with on-street parking.

At the center of the development is a park.

The park will have an in-ground swimming pool, a stage and seating area, a pavilion with an outdoor grill, a cabana-style building, a big-screen television, restrooms and "pedestrian pockets" with seating.

Residents will have access to multiple alternatives to cars as a way to get around.

A trail system that loops around the development will connect to an existing trail system within the Cranberry Woods office park.

Also, a shuttle will be provided for transport to the offices within the development, and a sidewalk system will run along the main roads and connect to the trails.

"The theory is that a lot of people who live here will also work and play here," Mr. Henshaw said.

Not only will the apartment complex be within the office complex -- a major jobs center in Cranberry -- but the complex is adjacent to the bustling Route 228 retail corridor.

"We're interested in keeping people off the streets, walking and biking and engaging in shared transportation.

This keeps pressure off the local road system and encourages a sense of community," Mr. Henshaw said.

Even if residents make use of the local road system on a regular basis, Mr. Henshaw said residential developments are a much lower generator of traffic than any commercial enterprise.

While Cranberry has a number of developments that mix residential and commercial development, there's nothing quite like this one in scale or design.

"This is a real anomaly. We don't have this anywhere else -- an apartment complex in the middle of a thriving office park. It's a great blend that we believe will feed off itself," he said.

Planning for the project began in early 2011.

He said township supervisors are expected to approve the project at a public meeting Feb. 7.

"I don't anticipate any stumbling blocks. All the hard work is done," Mr. Henshaw said.

James Murray-Coleman, senior vice president of Trammell Crow, said ground will be broken in the spring and the first units will be ready for leasing in the initial quarter of 2014.

"We're going to move fast. Time is money," he said.

He believes that there will be no problem leasing the properties.

"The location is probably the best location for an apartment complex on the East Coast," he said.

neigh_north

Karen Kane: kkane@post-gazette.com or 724-772-9180.


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