Diller developer 'not throwing in the towel'

March 04, 2004|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - A Harrisburg, Pa., real estate developer whose company lost out to a Pittsburgh firm to bring a Wal-Mart store to Washington Township, said Wednesday that the 120-acre Diller farm behind Wayne Heights Mall is destined for residential development.

George S. Lulos' firm, CB Richard Ellis, holds an option on the Diller farm. Efforts by his company to bring a Wal-Mart shopping center to the property have been on and off for several years.

The Harrisburg firm lost out Wednesday when Bruce Haney, vice president of Echo Real Estate Services/Development of Pittsburgh, CB Richard Ellis' competitor for the Wal-Mart prize, announced at a press conference that Wal-Mart has signed with his company.


Haney plans to start construction on Washington Commons, a 50-acre shopping center just east of the Food Lion shopping center, later this year. It will include a Wal-Mart Supercenter and a Lowe's home improvement store, among others.

The Washington Township Supervisors in December approved the rezoning of the land to pave the way for Haney's project.

At that time, Lulos and William A. Aiello, vice president of CB Richard Ellis, asked the supervisors to table action on Echo's rezoning request and consider their proposal for locating the Wal-Mart center on the Diller farm. Lulos said then that he had the best shot of convincing Wal-Mart officials to go with his plan.

At the time, neither firm had a commitment from Wal-Mart.

Lulos said he plans to meet with Washington Township Administrator Michael Christopher and Zoning Enforcement Officer Gerald Zeigler on Wednesday to discuss the future of the Diller farm property.

He said he always believed the Diller Farm was the best site for the Wal-Mart shopping center.

"It's zoned commercial in the master plan," he said.

Gaining entrance to the site was a problem until the Ames store closed last year. Its demise opened the way for an entrance through a demolished Ames store.

Lulos said now that Wal-Mart and Lowe's are coming to Rouzerville, there is no point in developing the Diller Farm into a shopping center for small retail outlets.

"The small stores follow the larger ones," he said. "The commercial zoning of the Diller Farm is of little value now."

The township opened the door to big box stores when it approved Echo's rezoning request, he said. It closed the door on commercial development at the Diller farm.

The new Wal-Mart and Lowe's will serve as the area's big box stores for years to come, he said.

"One site wins, one loses," Lulos said. "We both can't win. We are developers. We'll have to consider residential development for the Diller Farm.

"It's the only alternative," he said. "We're not throwing in the towel yet."

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