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Former Lemoyne Middle School could be replaced by retail, medical office space

Rental housing no longer part of the plan as CAEDC affiliate pushes for rezoning

The former Lemoyne Middle School could be redeveloped for new retail shops and medical suites, according to Cumberland County officials.

The Real Estate Collaborative LLC, an affiliate set up last year by the Cumberland Area Economic Development Corp. to secure vacant commercial and industrial sites and partner with developers on new projects, has asked borough officials to rezone the rear of the roughly three-acre property to commercial zoning. The front of the site is already commercially zoned.

A borough council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday.

Jonathan Bowser, CEO of the county economic development corporation, said the application to council requests that the county and borough planning commissions review the rezoning proposal. If those commissions recommend a change, the borough council would need to approve it. He’s hoping that will happen this year so land development approvals can occur in 2018.

“For us, this is a very attractive site for commercial uses such as retail and medical office,” Bowser said.

Earlier this year, Bowser said the plan was to acquire the site for mixed-use redevelopment, including rental housing. But after calculating the cost to demolish the building and prepare the site for redevelopment, it became “very difficult” to make the numbers work for residential uses, he said.

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And the community has been opposed to high-density residential development because of the potential enrollment burden it could place on the West Shore School District, which also comes with a higher demand for local services compared with commercial development.

The plan is to partner with a private developer once local approvals are obtained, Bowser said. The collaborative is proposing two new buildings on the site after demolition of the school. The front building would be about 7,500 square feet and could house one retail user or multiple tenants, maybe even a brewpub or some other type of restaurant.

The rear of the site would include a two-story, 24,000-square-foot office building. Medical office users would be the top target, either one tenant or a mix of tenants.

Construction costs have not yet been determined, he said. A lot depends on the number of tenants and fit-out needs for those users.

But demolition and site remediation costs are expected to exceed $1.2 million. CAEDC may pursue local and state economic development programs to help cover costs.

Bowser said a local developer has been identified, but he would not disclose the name. “Once we get past necessary approvals we need, we will look to move forward with a partnership agreement,” he said.

The early projection is that the redevelopment effort could create at least 65 new jobs and have an annual economic impact of about $7 million. Getting the property back on the tax rolls also could add about $85,000 in new taxes for the borough, the county and school district.

The new buildings could be open by 2019.

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