South Fayette business growth follows housing boom in corridor

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South Fayette, a township that has experienced enormous housing growth, finally is seeing major business development, too.

New projects are being shaped and long-held plans are nearing fruition around the interchange of Interstate 79 and Route 50, which is identified as the Bridgeville interchange but is in South Fayette.

The corridor has become a hot spot for commercial and retail projects, including a hotel, two shopping centers and a major pediatric clinic.

Township manager Ryan Eggleston said available commercial property in the area is "very attractive right now" to developers.

"When you look around [the region], there's not that many places where this much development is going on in a concentrated area, so it's exciting for South Fayette," he said.

For years, South Fayette has sought business development to offset the township's housing growth, which places demands on the school district and township services.

Now, the township is seeing an influx of business activity near the highway interchange, just outside the Bridgeville border.

"It's a great opportunity, and it's something the township has been positioning itself for, for quite a while," said Deron Gabriel, president of the commissioners.

He said the growing residential population has been the main driving force behind new commercial developments, but projects in the corridor also have spurred each other.

In fact, development is so promising that township officials are beginning to discuss whether they still need a tax-incentive program to lure businesses. The township's Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance program offers five years of tax breaks in all commercial and industrial zones.

Here is a roundup of projects planned in the I-79/Route 50 corridor:

• Hotel -- A five-story, 84-room hotel with an indoor pool will be built beside the Knights Inn at I-79. Originally approved several years ago as a Hampton Inn, the plan finally is ready to move forward because the developers have secured financing, township officials said.

Horizon Properties Group LLC of Cecil, a real estate development company based in the Southpointe business park, has presented plans to tear down a vacant, one-story building formerly used by Knights Inn and develop the 1.7-acre parcel on Old Pond Road.

• Shopping center -- A new proposal at the intersection of Route 50 and Washington Pike includes a 15,946-square-foot grocery store, a 4,400-square-foot bank or restaurant, and a 16,500-square-foot commercial building with three to five businesses and a coffee drive-through.

The eight-acre Bridgeville Retail Center plan involves demolishing the Bridgeville Fuel Stop gas station, formerly an Exxon, at the traffic light and developing the area behind it.

Dale Greco of Bridgeville Realty Partners LLC in Pittsburgh is expected to present plans to the township planning commission at 7 p.m. next Thursday in the municipal building, 515 Millers Run Road, township engineer Mike Benton said.

In another shopping plaza nearby, development of a 5,722-square-foot MedExpress urgent care clinic is under way at 3024 Washington Pike.

• Star City Cinema site -- Also at the December planning commission meeting, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC is expected to present preliminary site plans for an $18.5 million, 60,000-square-foot pediatric clinic at the I-79 southbound exit ramp. Opening is planned for autumn 2014.

In March, South Fayette accepted the hospital's $1.65 million bid to buy the 2.6-acre out parcel of the former Star City Cinemas, which the township owns. The purchase is expected to be finalized in January or February, along with a developer's agreement that includes UPMC making payments to the township in lieu of taxes.

A Washington Financial Bank will be built on another Star City out parcel.

South Fayette had purchased the theater with plans to convert the building into a civic center, but those plans have not progressed.

Mr. Gabriel said construction and operation of the facility would require a property tax increase, and officials are considering whether to build the civic center elsewhere and sell the theater for commercial development.

He said having control of the Star City site has enabled the township to draw UPMC and other businesses to the area.

"Regardless of whether we build the civic center there, it still has been positive because it has facilitated development on the Route 50 corridor," Mr. Gabriel said.

Development of other nearby properties could help determine the Star City site's future, too, he said.

For example, the site of the former St. Anthony Church at I-79 is for sale, and its eventual use could have an impact on the decision of where to locate the civic center, he said.

"We'll have to see what's viable financially," Mr. Gabriel said.

• Newbury Market -- This spring, infrastructure work will begin for Newbury Market, an 88-acre shopping center that aims to open in 2014, according to a November newsletter from developer Brett Malky, president of EQA Landmark Communities.

The commercial plan, on a former chemical plant site, will include 1.2 million square feet of retail, restaurant, hospitality and office space. Tenants include a Giant Eagle supermarket, a Courtyard Marriott hotel, two office buildings and various retail stores.

Offsite road improvements to support the shopping center traffic will start this spring, Mr. Malky said. The state-owned roadways include Route 50, Washington Pike, Presto-Sygan Road, Millers Run Road, Thoms Run Road and the southbound exit ramp of I-79.

To make way for the shopping center entrance, Newbury recently relocated 84 Lumber from Route 50 to a site on Presto-Sygan Road.

• Housing -- In areas surrounding the I-79/Route 50 corridor, housing construction continues. Newbury continues to build and sell single-family homes on a hill above Presto-Sygan Road and plans to start construction in the spring of Newbury Village, a complex of 250 rental garden apartments on Oakridge Road.

And, according to township officials, developer Dick Herrington is proposing a new plan of 90 single-family homes on Battle Ridge Road, adjacent to the back of Old Oakdale Road's Berkshires housing plan, which he also developed. Lot sizes will range from 0.5 acre to 1.5 acres.

neigh_west - neigh_south

Andrea Iglar, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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