The Great Bear rollercoaster at Hersheypark will soon have reason to roar a little louder: a larger audience.
If everything goes according to plan along West Chocolate Avenue for Jamie Pascotti and Massimo Rizzotto, the new owners of the Hershey post office building, park rides will have regular onlookers from the proposed roof deck on the back of the aforementioned property.
Pascotti and Rizzotto, partners in 169 Chocolate Group LLC, purchased the postal building and surrounding property — about 5 acres in total — at the end of July from the Hershey Trust Co. for $3.24 million.
The plan is to renovate the nearly 35,000-square-foot building and bring in a mix of office, retail and restaurant users. The rear of the building, once used as a slaughterhouse, faces the park.
The partners are planning to build two additional structures along the road frontage that could also house a mix of retail shops, restaurants, personal service businesses and offices.
Dubbed the Hershey Downtown Center, the project promises to drive more foot traffic to downtown Hershey.
That’s never a bad thing, said Phil Guarno, who owns Fenicci’s of Hershey across the street.
“Whether it’s competitive in nature or not, it tends to make the businesses already there even busier,” Guarno said. “I’d rather open my door and see other shops and restaurants over a grass field. I think it’s a great thing.”
Guarno was against the Chipotle that went in at nearby Ridge Road. However, that fast-casual restaurant helped drive more traffic downtown, which helped other eateries, he said.
Don Papson, executive director of The M.S. Hershey Foundation, which operates The Hershey Story Museum, said the planned development of the neighboring property is exciting and helps build a stronger downtown.
“A vibrant downtown is the cornerstone for continuing Mr. Hershey’s legacy of commitment to the community as well as providing additional amenities for residents,” he said.
Kenneth Gall, director of real estate for the Hershey Trust, said the investment sale preserves a core building in the downtown and it provides a good opportunity for a local development team.
Rizzotto lives in the Hershey area and has been involved in several office projects. He worked on historic preservation projects in Italy before moving to the U.S. about 15 years ago. This is the first Hershey project for Pascotti.
Both men said they want to be sensitive to what’s around them on West Chocolate Avenue and develop facilities that adhere to zoning requirements.
The post office property is not the only one on West Chocolate Avenue to change hands recently. The neighboring Hershey Plaza at 215 W. Chocolate Ave. was sold in June for $15.25 million to Cumberland County developer Dan Deitchman. The plaza has a 216-unit apartment building and 20,000-square-foot commercial shopping center.
What do you think about the recent activity in Derry Township? Are you excited? Concerned?