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CarMax eyeing spot at Carlisle Pike's Sterling Place property

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Dauphin County-based Hoffer Properties has started site work for two office buildings at the former Phico property now known as Sterling Place in Cumberland County, and is planning retail development that could bring a CarMax Inc. used-car dealership to the Carlisle Pike.

While some company executives in Silver Spring Township welcome growth and businesses to the municipal economy, others are concerned rapid development could cause traffic problems as other nearby commercial and residential properties fill out.

Swatara Township-based Hoffer — also known as 114 Associates for this $40 million project — received approval this summer for Sterling Place's first phase, the office buildings on 20 acres off Route 114. The original project called for six buildings, but the company in July scaled back the plans to two four-story buildings, each with 128,700 square-feet, according to the township.

Hoffer also renovated the Phico building for offices. Various companies have been interested in redeveloping the property for nearly 10 years.

Norman Hoffer, the principle of both 114 Associates and Hoffer Properties, declined to comment on the Sterling Place projects.

Construction of the office buildings most likely will begin after anchor tenants or a large percentage of the space is leased out, although what that percentage will be is unknown, said Thomas Posavec, the project's leasing agent and vice president of the office services group at East Pennsboro Township-based Landmark Commercial Realty Inc./Oncor International.

The company is reworking the second phase that could include banks, restaurants and a retail strip mall, said Terri A. Martini, assistant manager for Silver Spring Township. Phase two is at the southeast corner of the intersection and could include a CarMax dealership, she said.

CarMax is interested in a property in Cumberland County for a second midstate dealership but no land has been purchased, spokeswoman Elia Imler said in an email. It could take as many as three years before potential properties become stores, she said.

Richmond, Va.-based CarMax is building a store on the Manheim Pike in Lancaster County that will be the company's first Pennsylvania location. CarMax only recently returned to its plans to expand into the Northeast. The recession put most of those plans on hold, including the Manheim store.

In the meantime, businesses near Sterling Place see the new development through different lenses. Between 2,200 and 3,200 vehicles a day are expected to travel to and from the office and retail park once it's complete, executives from the township's business advisory board said.

The offices and retail proposed there will be good for the local economy, including more jobs, municipal tax revenue and business opportunity for existing companies, said Ron Ferris, CEO of Bobby Rahal Automotive Group, which owns several dealerships along the Carlisle Pike.

If traffic projections are any indicator, a lot more eyes and sales could be could be coming to Ferris' car lots and the other area businesses.

"That's 2,200 people I could sell cars to or do service for," Ferris said.

However, the situation may not be as cut-and-dried for companies outside the retail spectrum. Traffic could mean needless delays for employees, customers and orders.

Sterling Place traffic is about 1,500 vehicles per day now, and 3,200 a day are expected in the future, said Wayne Stevenson, president of Weskem Technologies Inc., a machine shop on Texaco Road in the township.

With added traffic from the retail, offices and other large businesses in that area, its possible traffic could back up, especially with the two traffic signals so close together, he said. Traffic could increase even more with the growth of new residential neighborhoods in the area, such as Walden, a development off Woods Drive, he said.

It could be a decade before the full impact of the business and traffic materializes, he said.

Hoffer paid for road improvements at the intersection and a new traffic signal at Sterling Parkway, the entrance to Sterling Place, where earth moving has begun to prepare the sites for the office buildings, Martini said.

"This particular traffic study took into consideration recent developments along the Carlisle Pike from Hampden through Middlesex (townships) and the projected development on Route 114 from I-81 to Mechanicsburg, including cross traffic at Texaco Road and Woods Drive," she said.

The township will have to address north-south traffic in the future because Route 114 is the only road capable of handling it at this time, Ferris said. Other roads are too small and winding to be safe routes for large trucks and heavy car traffic, he said.

"(Sterling Place is) going to create a lot of jobs," Stevenson said, "but it could create a lot of headaches."

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