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Borough looking to help Southgate with grant

May 20, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Borough of Chambersburg plans to seek $850,000 in state funding to help revitalize the Southgate Shopping Center and the surrounding neighborhood, Borough Manager Eric Oyer said.

Monday, Oyer met with Joe Shafran, owner of Paran Management, the Cleveland company that owns the shopping center, as well as state and local economic development officials to discuss a project to improve vehicle and pedestrian traffic flow at the center's north end.

"We're asking the state for a grant that would assist in relocating Cedar Street," Oyer said Wednesday.

The street, which runs between West Washington and West Queen streets, would be moved east toward the CVS parking lot, he said.

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"This is really a case of us looking to revitalize the Southgate Mall as it relates to the downtown," Oyer said.

Located west of South Main Street between Washington and Liberty streets, the shopping center has been largely vacant in recent years as the J.C. Penny, Ames and County Market stores moved or went out of business.

Last November, Big Lots moved from a shopping center east of town to the old J.C. Penny store. U.S. Factory Outlets is scheduled to open in the former Ames department store in August, said Downtown Chambersburg Inc. Executive Director Paul Cullinane.

Shafran said at Monday's meeting he is still pursuing plans for a nine-screen multiplex cinema in the former County Market building, according to Oyer.

"That's the kind of anchor retailers are looking for," Cullinane said. He said Shafran is also talking with other national retailers about the center, which has 17 retail spaces.

"Southgate is kind of the missing link of downtown revitalization," said Franklin County Area Development Corp. President L. Michael Ross, who attended the meeting. "It's a commercial center that serves an underserved part of the population," he said.

"In my conversations with Joe Shafran, he's confident we could see an 85 percent occupancy rate at Southgate by the end of the year," Ross said.

Cullinane said improvements at Southgate could be linked to the Elm Street program, a new state initiative similar to the Mainstreet program aimed at improving neighborhoods near downtown commercial areas. Elm Street grants could be used to create green space and "gateway" signs to make the area near Cedar Street a more attractive point of entry, he said.

First, the state wants to see a commitment by the borough and Paran Management to the effort, he said.

The meeting was attended by three officials from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, Oyer said. The source of state money has not been identified, but Oyer said, "There's been much discussion about many programs in the governor's stimulus package."

The $1 billion economic stimulus package is designed to help local governments get money for projects that will leverage additional private sector investment.

Oyer said there is no timetable for applying for a grant or relocating the street.

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