Shopping may get closer to UPJ


Ryan Brown, Managing Editor

An 18-acre Theater Drive property down the street from Bloomfield and College Park apartments may be home to shops and restaurants, if a sale attempt and zoning hearings go according to Richland school administrators’ plans.

The property –  home to a little-used former elementary school building and best known to Pitt-Johnstown students as the swampy field en route to Walmart – is set for bidding among developers.

“We have been approached by a couple of different land developers,” Richland School District Superintendent Thomas Fleming said.

Selling the plot for commercial use could bring a windfall to the district while drawing tax-paying businesses.

Developers haven’t yet provided specific building plans, Fleming said, but they may include a big-box store surrounded by smaller shops and restaurants – not unlike the neighboring Richland Town Centre, and its Walmart anchor.

A successful retail development would be the closest shopping yet to the Pitt-Johnstown campus, at roughly a half-mile walking distance.

The land is zoned for residential use, the most restrictive option available, according to Township Zoning Secretary Carol Ieni.

Re-zoning the land would require a public hearing process that could take months, Ieni said. But, with the neighboring school district obviously in support, the main impediment to rezoning may be lifted.

District officials are set to hear proposals at a May 14 school board meeting. Prospective developers will have to provide business plans and traffic details to be considered, Fleming said, along with a $50,000 nonrefundable deposit.

If the process succeeds, the property would be open to commercial development alongside a neighboring 4-acre Eisenhower Road lot, currently for sale by Johnstown-based CCN properties. A combined development could approach the Richland Town Centre in size.

And while specific business proposals aren’t yet in order, some Pitt-Johnstown students eagerly offered their own suggestions.

At the mention of a big-box store, some leapt on the possibility of a Target location.

“And more restaurants,” said sophomore Katie Dalzell.

“The only place around is, like, Applebee’s.”