$7.6M deal to buy former Bon-Ton store moves ahead
The Lower Allen Township Development Authority is moving forward with a plan to buy the former Bon-Ton store on Gettysburg Road and prepare it for commercial redevelopment.
The $7.6 million deal — lower than a previous offer of $8.1 million — is expected to close on Jan. 18, said Erin Trone, assistant township manager.
The store is owned by the bankrupt retail chain, which closed its remaining stores at the end of August following a lengthy liquidation process. A New York-based firm has been selling off the retailer's real estate assets since May.
The goal of the township authority has been to secure the highly visible property off Route 15 and find the right developer willing to invest in new commercial uses for the Bon-Ton. The authority was created a decade ago to help steer commercial development in Lower Allen.
The nearly 14-acre property represents the "face of the township," Trone said, with more than 70,000 cars passing the site each day as they travel through the Camp Hill area.
"It's important to put the best face on that location," she said.
The authority is still in the early planning phases, said consultant Tom Richey of Third Mountain Consulting LLC. However, it is likely that most or all of the Bon-Ton will be demolished to make room for new construction.
"The township is being proactive instead of reactive here," Richey said.
The 141,148-square-foot Bon-Ton building is connected to a former Border's book store that is used seasonally. The book store could remain and be repurposed for other retail uses.
The property also has three freestanding restaurants — a Bonefish Grill, Burger King and Texas Roadhouse — that would not be impacted by the proposed redevelopment.
The authority could spend up to $3 million for demolition and improvements on the site through much of 2019. Trone and listing agent Art Campbell of Campbell Commercial Real Estate Inc. said the site could house a hotel and conference center, along with other retail uses.
A final mix would be determined by a development partner selected by the authority. The authority plans to issue a request for qualifications to see what developers may be interested in the property.
Township officials believe the redevelopment effort will complement the recent addition of new tenants at the nearby Capital City Mall, and spark further investment around the mall.
A hotel and conference center at the Bon-Ton site could spur even more retail and restaurant development in the area, lifting property values, Campbell said. A long-term vacancy, by contrast, could hurt surrounding properties.