Construction continuing at brisk pace in Cranberry


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A Home Depot store and a Bob Evans eatery are the latest businesses eyeing property in the township.

Business is booming in Cranberry Township, and the list of new retailers is about to get bigger.

Home Depot, billed as "the world's largest home improvement retailer" and known for its signature orange box store, is eyeing a property along Route 322.

In addition, the Bob Evans Restaurant chain based in Columbus, Ohio, may build a dining facility near a complex of retail shops around the Wal-Mart site.

At the same time, work is expected to begin soon on a $1.5 million strip mall in an area between Busy Beaver and McDonald's Restaurant off Route 322. JRA Development Corp., developer of the Route 322 tract that houses Wal-Mart and several other retailers, is overseeing the project.

The JRA Development mini-mall, known as Cranberry Plaza II, will include a 24,000-square-foot multi-tenant building, a building housing a drive-through coffee business and a third structure earmarked for a drive-up ice cream shop.

Included in the main building will be a restaurant, retailers, a bank office and the district Social Security Administration office, now located on Seneca Street in Oil City. The federal agency has signed to lease the space.

All the business activity is welcome in the township, said Terry Ray, code enforcement and zoning officer for Cranberry.

The township is posed to outdo its $3.3 million in new construction and 181 building permits recorded in 2002. (The actual construction costs last year topped $42 million but included a major perk - $39 million for the new UPMC Northwest hospital.)

"We're pretty busy out here," Ray said. "In the first half of this year, we have had 91 building permits filed for an estimated construction value of $2,040,353. I think we'll exceed last year's (minus the hospital figures) amount by the end of 2003."

That 2003 ledger of anticipated construction costs does not include the new strip mall. Plans for the strip mall have been sanctioned by both the township and the Venango County Planning Commission, but the development company has not yet filed for a building permit, Ray said.

Neither does the compilation take into account a $500,000-plus renovation of the former Quaker State Innovation Center on Route 257. The former oil company offices are earmarked to accommodate several non-medical departments for UPMC Northwest. That work is also expected to start this summer.

Meanwhile, the township is fielding numerous inquiries about properties, sewage and water services, zoning, and highway access from both Home Depot and Bob Evans Restaurant. Township officials said they are assisting in efforts on behalf of "potential developers" but would say only the two national chains "are looking at the township for development."

Home Depot, founded in 1978 in Atlanta, has more than 1,500 stores in North America. It carries a stock of 35,000 different kinds of building materials and lawn and garden products.

The closest Home Depot outlets in this area are in Butler and Erie. The site under consideration in Cranberry Township is a vacant field adjacent to Staples along Route 322.

Bob Evans has 521 restaurants in 22 states, including one in Erie and another in Butler. The chain is considering a tract between McDonald's and the existing strip mall, also built by JRA Development, off Route 322.

One other business appears interested in setting up shop in the township. An automobile repair shop and car rental agency is reportedly looking at property along Old Salina Road.

All the potential development, fueled by the $65 million UPMC Northwest hospital project that includes a main medical center, a behavioral health building, a child care center and a physicians' office building, comes on the heels of three new housing developments in the township.

Last year, 18 new homes were built in the township. In the first half of 2003, 15 residences have been constructed.

- Emrick Acres, a 44-lot project off Gilmore Road, was launched in 2001 and has several homes completed.

- Developers of The Woodlands, a 17-lot venture off Route 322 near the Cranberry Mall, are extending water and sewage lines to their property. The project will feature 2- to 3-acre lots and is being done by Maho Realty Co., organized by Harold Best and Jeff Heeter.

- Site preparation work is continuing at a 12-lot housing development off Bredinsburg Road near the intersection with Big Egypt Road. The project is being done by Ted Hepler and Tim McGrath, owners of Cranberry Area Development Corp. The township has approved water and sewage systems there.

- Development may also open up in acreage between Cranberry High School and Big Egypt Road. A new road through that tract may result in a residential building project.