Local authority closing in on $8.1M deal for former Bon-Ton store
A former Bon-Ton store in Cumberland County could soon have a new owner.
The Lower Allen Township Development Authority has submitted an $8.1 million offer to buy the Bon-Ton store at 3525 Gettysburg Road in Lower Allen. The store is owned by the retailer, which went bankrupt earlier this year.
A sales agreement was signed this week by the authority's board, said Erin Trone, assistant township manager. The township hopes it will be able to close on the deal by January, following a due diligence process, and then identify a commercial development partner to redevelop the site.
The township development authority was created a decade ago to help steer commercial development in Lower Allen.
"We're getting involved because we think it's important to put something on that site that supports other businesses," Trone said. "The site is highly visible from Route 15 and a long-term vacancy could have a detrimental effect on Lower Allen Township's economic image and tax base."
Trone said the authority's goals are to secure financing, close on the deal and find the right developer willing to invest in new commercial uses for the Bon-Ton.
"The site offers considerable potential because Cumberland County is the fastest-growing county in the state and over 70,000 cars pass the site each day," Trone said. "It's a gateway to the region."
She added: "We felt like the site was too important to not make sure it was done well."
The standalone store in Lower Allen Township is near the Capital City Mall and was one of the few company-owned stores in the chain. The 141,148-square-foot building sits on a nearly 14-acre property, which also has four ground-leased properties and another small pad site.
The township's offer is for the entire property, though the main focus of redevelopment efforts would be the Bon-Ton store. The site also hosts three freestanding restaurants — a Bonefish Grill, Burger King and Texas Roadhouse — as well as a former Border's book store that is used seasonally and could be repurposed.
Officials have discussed the possibility of seeing the site turned into a hotel and conference center, which could bring more visitors to restaurants in the area. The Capital City Mall also could benefit, Trone said.
No plans have been finalized and the authority is flexible, she said, though zoning precludes residential uses at the site.
The township has submitted applications to the state, hoping to secure grant money to pay for demolition and onsite improvements, as well a low-interest loan to help cover the acquisition cost.
Demolition of the Bon-Ton store could make the site more attractive to developers and speed up the redevelopment process, Trone said.
The township authority's effort is similar to efforts undertaken around the county by the Real Estate Collaborative, an entity set up by the Cumberland Area Economic Development Corp. The collaborative is buying vacant and underused sites, like the former Lemoyne Middle School, and taking steps to position them for redevelopment.
All of Bon-Ton's stores shuttered following a bankruptcy liquidation, though a tech company has scooped up the brand to revive it with an online focus. A New York-based firm has been selling off the retailer's real estate assets across the country since May.