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Norland Avenue open for business in Chambersburg

November 23, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The barrels blocking the Norland Avenue entrance at Walker Road were rolled away Tuesday, opening the way for the full development of the Gabler Tract in Chambersburg's North End.

The process of turning the tract's fields into commercial and residential properties is well under way, although approximately 200 acres of land remain open, according to Michael Garrett of Palisades Development, the group formed to manage the land's development. Harold Gabler of GS&G Properties said only about 23 acres are not under contract.

The Norland Avenue project, which extended the road more than 3,400 feet at a cost of $4.4 million, was years in the planning, but just months in actual construction. The project took 32,000 tons of gravel and another 12,000 tons of asphalt, according to Bob Zimmerman, the chief executive officer of Valley Quarries Inc., the prime contractor for the undertaking.

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"I believe the development that will come with this street will return that many times over for the people of Chambersburg and Franklin County," Zimmerman said of the four-lane road.

Kimco Realty Corp. of Lutherville, Md., announced earlier this year that it will build a 350,000-square-foot retail development on 47 acres that will include a Target department store along with a major supermarket, restaurants and other retail stores. That project, called Chambersburg Crossing, is expected to cost $60 million, a Kimco official said earlier this year.

Borough Council President William McLaughlin called Norland Avenue "a public-private partnership where the general public is the ultimate beneficiary." While the development of the land will produce real estate tax revenues for Chambersburg, McLaughlin said the project relied on federal, state and private funding.

McLaughlin thanked former U.S. Rep. Bud Shuster for procuring $2.4 million for the road itself and state Sen. Terry Punt, R-Franklin, and former state Rep. Jeff Coy for helping the borough get $1.25 million in state funds to extend the borough-owned gas, electric, water and sewer lines beneath the road.

Costs for the project above the $3.65 million in state and federal funding were paid by the developers, he said.

Norland Avenue "is the largest development project in the history of Chambersburg," McLaughlin said.

Norland Avenue is closely linked with Exit 17 of Interstate 81, which opened earlier this year and is north of the avenue's intersection with Walker Road, Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce President David Sciamanna said.

"When this project started, I didn't need glasses," Sciamanna said during his remarks. He said it was in 1985 that he first met with Bud Shuster in Washington, D.C., to seek funding for Exit 17, then often referred to as Exit 7 under Pennsylvania's old system of numbering interchanges.

Funding for the project was included in the 1987 federal highway bill, but legal and other challenges held up work on the exit for years.

"It didn't take long after that funding was secured for things to turn sour," Sciamanna said. Opponents of the project did not realize how the community would grow and the need for an adequate transportation system, he said.

Sciamanna said he expected that many of those who opposed the exit and the Norland Avenue extension soon will be using the newly opened road.

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