Plans to develop McCandless site where Walmart wanted to build up for discussion at Oct. 2 meeting |
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Tony LaRussa
A proposed developent along Blazier Drive in McCandless could include a mix of retail shops and homes similar to the ones built in 2014 at the McCandless Crossing project, which has town homes within walking distance of shops, restaurants and offices.

Preliminary discussions about how best to develop the McCandless site where Wal-Mart wanted to build a supercenter several years ago are expected to begin at the town planning commission meeting in early October.

AdVenture Development and Continental Real Estate Co. are teaming up to develop the 23-acre site along Blazier Drive, which has been mostly vacant since Trader Horn shut its store down in November 2014 after 22 years. Before Trader Horn, the building housed a Kmart store.

AdVenture, which is based in Selma, N.C., developed the McCandless Crossing shopping center. Columbus, Ohio, based Continental Real Estate developed the Waterfront shopping center in Homestead.

“We’re going to have some sketches of projects we’ve done in other areas but we’re not going to be making any formal presentations for this site,” said Kevin Dougherty of AdVenture Development. “I see this meeting as the start of an imagineering process similar to what we did before McCandless Crossing was developed.”

The planning commission is scheduled to meet at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 2.

Dougherty said the meeting will be an opportunity to begin gathering input from the public on what they would like to see developed along with feedback on ideas the developers have for what might work well on the site.

“Even people who didn’t want us to build anything on the McCandless Crossing site complimented us on the collaborative process that was taken as it was being developed,” Dougherty said. “So getting input from the community and local officials about what the possibilities might be for this project is an important step for us.”

In December 2016, Wal-Mart nixed plans to build a 155,000-square-foot supercenter on the site. The announcement came a week after Giant Eagle Corp. purchased a portion of the site where Wal-Mart planned to build.

The $1.3 million acquisition of about 7 acres by Giant Eagle reduced the amount of property on which Wal-Mart could conceivably build to about 16 acres, according to McCandless officials.

Giant Eagle officials said no decisions have been made on how they will use their portion of the property.

“We continue to evaluate potential scenarios for the property Giant Eagle recently purchased along Blazier Drive,” said Dick Roberts, a spokesman for the company. “Most scenarios include cooperation with adjacent parcel owners.

“While there are no confirmed plans at this time, conversations about the future use of the property are ongoing. We continue to review scenarios for the best use of the property to make a positive contribution to the McCandless community.”

One of the properties Giant Eagle bought is about 2.8 acres; the other about 4.4 acres, according to the Allegheny County Real Estate website. The two parcels, however, are not connected.

The proposed development does not include the 26.72-acre property along Blazier where the vacant Rave Cinema building is located. In 2015, McCandless proposed buying that land, which is in a flood plain, and turning it into a natural wetlands park.

But town officials bagged the idea after determining the $1.25 million price tag for the land and estimated $400,000 to demolish the theater building were too steep. In November 2016, Richland Properties Inc. bought the land, which had an assessed value at nearly $3.46 million, for $550,000. No specific plans for how that property will be used have been announced.

While Dougherty said AdVenture and Continental have “no pre-conceived ideas” about how the old Trader Horn site should be used, the size of the property, competition from nearby retailers and current trends in residential and commercial development are factors that will be considered in the final plan.

McCandless Crossing is on 135 acres. The Blazier Drive property is 23 acres, but only about 18 can be developed, he said.

Because of its size, there likely will not be any large anchor stores included with the site’s commercial component.

“There’s still two large commercial buildings on the property, so you can see that if a new development includes anchor stores like those there wouldn’t be much room for anything else,” Dougherty said. “There’s also a Target store right across the street, so I don’t see us doing any anchor stores with this project.”

The mixed-use approach used for McCandless Crossing, which has homes within walking distance of shops, restaurants and offices, is among the most popular development trends, he said.

A mixed-use project also can be made more desirable by offering housing that appeals to a wider range of people.

“Mixing age groups and uses is certainly in vogue right now,” he said. “So those are some of of the possibilities that could work on Blazier.”

Dougherty said the property’close proximity to North Park means elements such as green space, natural ties to the park and the creation of walking trails “are all possibilities we’d like to see explored as we formulate a plan,” he said.

Tony LaRussa is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tony at 724-772-6368 or [email protected] or via Twitter @TonyLaRussaTrib.

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