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Commercial development inches forward on West Shore

By , - Last modified: February 11, 2011 at 1:54 PM

Drive around Cumberland County, and sometimes it's difficult to see the gradual suburbanization that has gripped much of the county over the last 10 years.

Drive around Cumberland County, and sometimes it's difficult to see the gradual suburbanization that has gripped much of the county over the last 10 years.

That's been especially true in the past year, when the recession has significantly slowed the pace of both residential and commercial development. According to the Cumberland County Planning Department, 2008 was the slowest year in a decade for building permits issued.

But development could pick up again with a couple significant commercial projects ready to spring to life in the tail end of 2009, said Eric Clancy, executive vice president of Hampden Township-based Delta Development Group Inc.

Clancy, also the former board chairman of the Susquehanna Area Regional Airport Authority, is passionate about what it will take for Central Pennsylvania to succeed as an economic region, he said.

The economy will see another day, and that day is dawning in Central Pennsylvania, he said.

Clancy spoke to the Business Journal recently about his company's 68.4-acre Delta Pointe at Silver Spring business park on Route 114, near Interstate 81, and other issues affecting development in the region.

Q: Delta Pointe is your new deal. Why did the project sit idle for so long?

A: We started plans in 2006 and bought the land in 2007. Originally, it was farmland and then it was used as a concrete batch plant for road construction. There was a lot of construction waste lying around, like concrete and glass, but nothing hazardous. It had to be cleaned up. Plus, the cost of development is so significant. It required $3 million just for off-site improvements to the roads and bridge.

What's significant about this area of the county?

I think you have great arterial access from the highways. Easy on, easy off. That's why the entire (routes) 114 and 11 and 81 area is seeing development. Plus, Hampden and Silver Spring townships have a good housing stock and large population. People here have their issues with the Carlisle Pike, saying it's always crowded, but it's a good commercial avenue.

There are pushes to get away from that suburban commercial avenue and redevelop downtown areas. Do people want downtowns or strip malls, or is it a mix?

We have romantic views of our downtowns, but the reality of retail dictates a mix. Retailers who figure out their niche do well anywhere.

You have one tenant at Delta Pointe already, right? Will this take off quickly, and will we see more tenants soon?

Yes, Gatter & Diehl (Inc.) is already working on what will be their new office at Delta Pointe. It will be a mixed development with offices, hotels and restaurants. I think we're going to get some good play on the office space.

What's the key to getting more development under way?

The key is the capital markets. They're still not lending the way they did in the past, especially the big national banks. Local banks are not affected as much, but big national tenants are not going there for money. Where projects go in the future depends on the cooperation among regional players to attract national players. Rivers are always a big divide anywhere, as it is here. Look at New York City and Long Island. If you live in Brooklyn or Queens, you say that's where you're from, not Long Island. But the greater New York metro area works together.

What's in store for Delta Development's future?

Our new building will go on lot eight of Delta Pointe. We're outgrowing this office. A hotel at Delta Pointe's lot seven could be our next big announcement. We're looking around at other projects, some that we've been considering for a while. We own land in Middle Paxton Township (Dauphin County) where we want to build a grocery and retail center.

Is that near Dauphin Borough?

Yes, we own that land off Route 225 and the access road for Route 322. We also are looking at development in Lower Swatara Township at Route 441 and Union Street. We're making everything ready so when the capital market thaws we can hit the ground running. There are some indicators that it's thawing.

What would make development easier?

As a region and a state, don't put obstacles in the way. Don't rebuild the transportation structure on the back of the next developer.

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