The hills and valleys are alive with the sound of ... Caterpillars. And cement mixers, vehicles in reverse, power saws, hammers, diligent workers.The Route 19 corridor, from the Peters-Upper St. Clair line through South Strabane Township, is rife with new construction, renovation and ambitious projects. It’s a stretch of a dozen miles with dozens of things transpiring in an ever-changing Washington County landscape.And that landscape is changing as much physically as it is metaphorically. Tens of thousands of tons of earth have been moved or are being moved to accommodate Ashwood Commons, Meadows Landing, Park Place and smaller but equally vital, vibrant endeavors.“This corridor is amazing,” said Richard Sieber, public relations director for St. Clair Hospital, which is building a medical facility in Peters.Here is an update on major commercial work that was recently completed, is ongoing or is planned along the dozen or so miles that run through the townships of Peters, North Strabane and South Strabane:
n St. Clair Hospital: The building housing medical offices and an outpatient clinic “is on schedule to open in the spring,” said Rich Sieber, public relations director of the Mt. Lebanon-based hospital. He could not give a more specific time frame.Outside construction is nearly complete on the facility, which is slighty south of McMurray Road in Peters, along the southbound lane. Work on a left-turn lane from the northbound side still has to be finished.St. Clair’s new building is two stories and will have 40,000 feet of space, on a site of a former home improvement center and dance studio. Diagnostic services such as MRI, ultrasound, CAT scan and X-rays on the first floor and physicians offices on the second.Location, location, location is more than a mantra for the real estate profession. It was a major reason St. Clair paid $2.995 million in January 2010 for the nearly three-acre site in a bustling community.“We have seen a 34 percent increase in the number of patients from Peters Township,” Sieber said. “Also, a lot of our physicians are from there. This building is in a central location for a lot of people.”He also touted the layout of the site: a green barrier in the front, the center behind it, then a parking lot for 180 vehicles.“The nice thing is the lot is in the back,” Sieber said. “That is more aesthetically pleasing.”n Giant Eagle Express: The O’Hara-based grocery chain already had a full supermaket in the township, near McMurray Road. But it is still going to build one of its smaller stores three miles to the north.A 14,000-square-foot Express will go where South Hills Ford used to be, on the southbound side of Route 19. It will not be a convenience store, but will have some charactersistics of one.“There will be commonly shopped grocery items, including produce, and a wide selection of prepared foods like subs and fruit to go,” said Dick Roberts, a company spokesman. “There will be a deli, but no cheese department.”Beer is likely, too. “I knew they got a liquor license,” said township manager Mike Silvestri. “They’re going to have a cafe that sells beer.”Roberts could not confirm plans for alcohol or the installation of GetGo gasoline pumps, although gas “is generally something that a Giant Eagle Express has.”This is the third Giant Eagle Express. One opened about seven years ago in Harmar, Allegheny County, and the other in Indiana, Pa., in May.Remains of the car dealership have to be demolished. Roberts said there weren’t timetables for start of construction or opening of the Express store.n Chiropractic site: The property at 3380 Washington Road, most recently the home of a chiropractic clinic, may be rearranged.Blaise Larkin, a partner with Madison Realty Group, the property owner, said his firm “is looking to lease or build something else there.”The existing building, at the intersection with Hidden Valley Road, has 23,000 square feet but could be expanded. Larkin said his group purchased, then leveled a nearby house that included a pizza shop. That land also would accommodate additional parking. He said a medical office would be “a good use for the space.”n South Hills Honda: Silvestri said this auto dealership, on the northbound side near McDonald’s and Forest Lawn Gardens, plans to convert its three buildings into one large one.n Damon’s site: Ed Dunlap has purchased the property that he leased for his Damon’s restaurant, which is now closed along the southbound side. He plans to sell it.n First Niagara/PNC branches: Same building, different bank. The structure that had been home to PNC was taken over by the First Niagara McMurray Branch.The interior was gutted and remodeled after PNC moved out in December 2011, and First Niagara opened Aug. 27. Its building sits in front of the McDowell Shops, off the Route 19 northbound lanes.The PNC branch relocated to the opposite side of Route 19, and from slightly south to just slightly north of McMurray Road. It opened in late December on the old Donaldson farm property.n McDonald’s: The venerable fast-food restaurant, on the northbound side, reopened Tuesday with a renovated interior and exterior, and hoping patrons are lovin’ it.It is a bit larger and features the arcade design that is becoming common at McDoanld’s restaurants nationwide. This is the first McDonald’s in the Pittsburgh region to have LED lighting inside, in the parking lot and on signs.
n Ashwood Commons: The office condominiums project has taken off. The three two-story condos that have been built have 100 percent occupancy.JND Properties, the developer, wanted to give businesses the option to own their space instead of leasing it – a strategy that has worked. Shari and Joe DeNardo, JND’s owners, plan to build five more buildings on a 9.5-acre property accessed by Ashwood Drive, on the northbound side of Route 19, a short distance from Weavertown Road.n Park Place: This two-tiered project along the northbound side of Route 19 will straddle North Strabane and South Strabane. For a description, see the next item.
n Park Place: Dave Biafora is a partner with Premier Commercial Real Estate Service in Morgantown, W.Va. He doesn’t hesitate to express his professional affinity for the region about 50 miles to the north.“We think Washington County is a great development opportunity. It’s been pleasant working with North and South Strabane.”Then he dropped a dreaded “A” word.“. . . although some of the government stuff in Pennsylvania is ridiciulous. We’re building a bridge for a 4-inch stream, which has caused delays. The first phase hasn’t been as pleasant as it should be. It took two years to get all permits right.”Premier is the developer of the two-part Park Place project near the northbound side of Washington Road. Phase I, in South Strabane, is well under way, and Phase II, in North Strabane, is in the blueprint stages.Earth movement is nearly complete, a retaining wall is up and some paving has been done at the first site, which encompasses 14 acres just off the T-shaped intersection of Racetrack Road and Route 19. An entrance to Park Place is being built, making that intersection a crossroads. Biafora said the work should be completed by the end of the month.Phase I will feature two buildings. One will be a two-story, 40,000-square-foot structure with retail and food outlets on the first level and office suites and a child development center on the second. Dairy Queen, Little Caesar’s Pizza and Gloria Jean’s Gourmet Coffee & Teas will be among the shops, Biafora said, and there will be a gas station.He expects Phase I to open in the second quarter of 2013.The second phase is being mapped out on 30 nearby acres in North Strabane. Plans include an apartment complex featuring 200 units, a 20,000-square-foot mixed-use building, and a restaurant and/or hotel.Biafora said Premier hopes to close on that property by the end of 2012.n Meadows Landing: A sewage permitting issue is raising a stink at the 204-acre development that parallels the southbound lane of Route 19 from the Stone Creek apartment complex to Washington Ford.Harmony Medical Holdings, the lessee of one of the plots in this development, plans to erect a surgery center and medical office building. Work on the pad was nearly complete last week, but construction of that facility – the first project on the site – cannot begin until the owners get a sewage permit.A provision in the South Strabane municipal code mandates that each construction site has a permit, issued by the state Department of Environmental Protection.Meadows Landing Associates owns the property. Attorneys Gerald Cipriani and Hal Kestler comprise the ownership group, and Cipriani spoke at the township supervisors meeting Oct. 9, requesting an exemption to the provision. He said he and Kestler thought they had until February to secure the permit.Without it, Cipriani said, Meadows Landing Associates cannot acquire financing to pay for subsequent building phases, and that construction could be pushed back to the spring. He said one tenant has backed out because of the situation.Cipriani could not be reached for comment.Harmony Medical, headed by Howard Goldberg, M.D., has recieved township approval for Lot 9, and intends to construct a two-story building with 45,000-to-50,000-square feet. The site would be the new, enlarged home of Tri-State Surgery Center and the medical offices of Washington Ear Nose & Throat, which opened on Leonard Avenue in 2004.The surgery center will be about 19,000 square feet with the remaining space reserved for medical offices and a women’s diagnostic center, to be run by Washington Hospital. The hospital will be a minority owner of the project.Developers also plan to have other offices and retail, residential and light industrial porperties on the site. Massive amounts of earth have been moved by workers on the job from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.n Olive Garden: Tara Gray, spokeswoman for Olive Garden, said the South Strabane restaurant is scheduled to open in early December. That is a positive prospect for the township and The Foundry property, which has lain mostly dormant for more than three years.“The township wants that area to develop, to get back on track,” said John Stickle, South Strabane manager. “We’re hoping this spurs additional development at The Foundry.”Construction on what will be Washington County’s only Olive Garden is near completion. The restaurant is slightly south of Max & Erma’s, the only business operating on The Foundry property off the southbound lanes of 19.