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Southgate development plans gets lukewarm response in Chambersburg

October 31, 2007|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A conceptual plan to redevelop part of Southgate Mall as a senior citizen apartment complex received a skeptical reception from some of the more than 60 community residents at a public meeting on Chambersburg's Elm Street neighborhood revitalization plan.

PIRHL Developers of Warrensville Heights, Ohio, is proposing a 32-unit, two-story $6.8 million project on 2.5 acres of the mall property, which is owned by Paran Management of Cleveland, Ohio. The project would include a small park that would be turned over to the borough once it is built, said David J. Uram of PIRHL.

Financing would include a mix of federal and state loans and tax credits and a nonprofit partner would be the majority owner and manage the complex, Uram said. If the project meets borough approvals, construction would not start until early 2009, he said.

In a second phase of the project, PIRHL would give Paran Management $200,000 to $400,000 to pay for facade, landscaping and parking area improvements at the mall, Uram said.

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"I think Chambersburg needs more than what's being offered here," said Larry Lahr, a developer, who was part of a group that made a competing proposal to Paran for a higher density, nonsubsidized development of up to 200 units. "Thirty-two units of housing is not going to do anything for that mall."

"A concentration of tax credit housing in one area is not good," said resident Rosanna Johnson.

"I wouldn't come here as a carpetbagger to sell you something I wouldn't show my mother," Uram said. The complex would be quality construction with security systems and would bring economic activity to the area, he said.

"I think it's settling for less than we can get," said Mark Miller a downtown business owner, who said he thinks a higher density property would be better. "I'm not sold on it yet."

A number of residents said Paran has failed to maintain Southgate Mall or bring in businesses the community needs.

A few years ago, the mall's occupancy rate was about 20 percent, but is about half-filled now, said Richard Surovi, a leasing manager for Paran. Increasing development in the borough's South End makes the area more attractive to retailers, but attracting them to the mall has been difficult in recent years.

PIRHL is closer to starting a 40-unit town house project on Buchanan Street, Uram said. The land development plan for that $8.6 million project could be approved by the borough council in November, said Phil Wolgemuth, the borough's director of planning.

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