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Carlisle Pike still strong despite economy

The Carlisle Pike is still one of the hottest real estate corridors in the area, despite some pullouts that might seem to indicate otherwise.
Driving along the pike, the casual observer might wonder where some of the businesses have gone. On investigation, however, it becomes clear that this stretch of road is still a vibrant and desirable location, somewhat impervious to the negative impact of the recession compared with other real estate markets.

Circuit City, a pike mainstay for quite some time, was a casualty of the slow economy, and the company declared bankruptcy.

“The Circuit City on the Carlisle Pike was one of their more profitable locations in the country,” said Omar Shute, Cumberland County Economic Development executive director. He noted that retailer H.H. Gregg quickly took over the highly visible spot.

“The Carlisle Pike is a vibrant corridor of all sorts of commerce, from restaurants to automobiles, and it’s still a high-traffic area. The Phico building in Silver Spring (Township) is almost fully leased, and not too long ago there were developers looking to put a casino on the pike. The only car dealership we lost was Sutliff Suzuki, and Enterprise car rental took its place,” he said.

Enterprise doesn’t appear to be feeling the pinch in the least.

“Business has been great,” branch manager Josh Kelly said. “In fact, we’ve seen an increase during the past two years.”

Most car dealerships in the area continue to operate. Bobby Rahal and Sun Motorcars are no longer in the space they once occupied, but they chose to stay in the same area, moving to a different part of the pike to expand.

Earlier this year, Infiniti Motors — a brand that hasn’t had a bricks-and-mortar presence in Central Pennsylvania — moved into the property vacated by Rahal and, according to marketing manager Dan Lehr, business is great.

“We’re meeting goals and seeing traffic increase both online and at the dealership,” he said.

His said the company had no qualms about locating on the pike during a sluggish economy.

“Infiniti corporate studied the area and saw that it was a good fit for the brand. Being on the pike works for us, having our (Lehman) Volvo dealership here as well,” he said.

Lowe’s Home Center also chose to move to a more spacious location on the Carlisle Pike. Sam’s Club had considered moving into the spot vacated by Lowe’s, but it decided parking space was insufficient to meet its needs, Shute said.

Gary Huether, president of Arooga’s restaurant, said he is delighted with its presence on the Carlisle Pike, a space the company has wanted to occupy for quite some time.

“We lost the initial bid for Damons (which declared bankruptcy) to the Hampden Grille, so when the Hampden Grille decided to sell, they called us,” he said.

“None of our other stores has as high a traffic count every day, and business is great on the Carlisle Pike, but we’re priced well for the economy,” he added, “You can get a sandwich and a pitcher of beer for about $13.”

High-profile corners on the Carlisle Pike are maintaining their value, said Justin Shoemaker, commercial sales and leasing agent at NAI CIR in Wormleysburg.

“We might see a slight reduction off the market’s peak for mid-block locations, and deals might be somewhat slower to happen, but our high-profile corridors continue to perform very well. Demand by regional and national players continues unabated,” he said, noting that Toys R Us and Babies R Us will soon be locating on the pike, as will an undisclosed bank.

“We have multiple regional and national players looking at the Carlisle Pike right now,” he said, adding that it was premature to disclose further information.

For those who are concerned about traffic congestion getting worse, Al Bienstock, president of the Hampden Township board of commissioners, said that issue will be tackled in the near future.

“The board is in the process of planning a Special Development District to address traffic issues. This may include rerouting traffic through parallel service roads,” he said.

To aid in the early stages of planning, the township will be pursuing a grant, Bienstock said.

As to the future of the pike, Bienstock said businesses should continue to do well, and beleaguered commuters can take heart.

“We anticipate a better business climate, with traffic flowing more freely through the township as well as within the business area,” he said.

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