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Developers plow forward in tough economy

In the midst of a challenging economy, the owner of College
Row at Franklin & Marshall
College in Lancaster County
has been waiting for the right retailers to show up at the doorstep.

In the midst of a challenging economy, the owner of College
Row
at Franklin & Marshall
College
in Lancaster County
has been waiting for the right retailers to show up at the doorstep.

Philadelphia-based Campus Apartments Inc. already has reined
in Iron Hill Brewery, Bed & Bath Affair and Filling’s. Azura Clothing – a
clothing and home-accessories boutique – opened near the end of October, while
luxury eyewear boutique Old Town Optical opened earlier this month. But there
are still spots to fill.

“They have had to wait patiently for the right retailers,
and that is difficult when you know you could have every space up and running
with a business,” said Laura Van De Pette, spokeswoman for Campus Apartments,
which develops, owns and manages student-housing projects. “But they would
rather keep the big picture in mind and wait for better retailers.”

Despite the economy, those empty spots already could have
been filled with food retailers, but Campus Apartments is interested in
providing a mix of retailers that appeal to college students, as well as the
local community, she said. Given the economy, it is vital retailers appeal to
the largest group of consumers possible, she said.

“While the economy may be in a downward spiral, we will
eventually pull out, and when that happens, Campus Apartments and F&M want
to have the best possible mix of retailers,” she said.

Campus Apartments and other retail developers are still
working on projects, even as the national retail picture goes from bad to
worse.

Campus Apartments is negotiating lease agreements with four
additional tenants, including a coffee shop, a high-end salon and a smoothie
and ice-cream shop, Van De Pette said. One retailer that won’t be making its midstate
debut at College Row is Chester County-based Kimberton Whole Foods. That deal
is completely off the table due to declining sales at its four existing stores,
she said.

Regency Centers is still drafting plans for a roughly
700,000-square-foot shopping center in Swatara
Township, Dauphin County.
The Florida-based developer is known in the midstate for the creation of Silver Spring Square
shopping center in Cumberland
County.

Regency has been working on the plans for at least a year
and a half and during that time has been regularly meeting with Swatara Township officials. Paul Cornell,
administrator for the township, said he still anticipates the group will file
plans for the project.

“We had been looking at modifying plans with the current
economy, but they’re still looking at going forward,” Cornell said.

The project has not been immune to the economic storm – one
of the shopping center’s potential anchor stores may not be expanding into this
area, Cornell said. He did not specify the retailer.

The $90 million Swatara Marketplace – slated for U.S. Route
322 west of Mushroom Hill Road – would resemble the firm’s Silver Spring
Township project. Silver Spring
Square tenants include Wegmans, Target, Best Buy
and Bed Bath & Beyond.

Missouri-based Pacific Developments was scheduled to begin
construction in April of this year on a 47-acre shopping center in Newberry Township,
York County. The project, called Newberry
Pointe, is now scheduled to break ground in February, said Al Mers, a partner
in Pacific. It will take about a year to build the center.

However, the delay is not due to the economy, Mers said. He
attributed the holdup to waiting for permits from York County
and

PennDOT. Within the past month, the group got the green
light from the county but is still waiting for

PennDOT to approve its $3.5 million traffic-improvement
plan, he said.

Newberry Pointe will include a 184,000-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter and 10 to 15 stores in a
42,000-square-foot strip mall. The center also will have five separate lots,
one of which will be occupied by Rite Aid Corp. Leases have yet to be signed by
any other retailers, but Mers said he is not worried the economy will deter
retailers from coming on board.

“Until people see construction, it’s hard to get small stores
involved,” he said. “By the time the project comes on line, which at this point
is almost 2010, a lot of things are going to change hopefully from where they
are today. So, we’re optimistic.”

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