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Mixed-use project near Messiah could break ground in early 2018

The mixed-use Oakwood Hills project will span more than 100 acres in Upper Allen Township near Messiah College. - (Photo / Submitted)

Construction on a large mixed-use project in Upper Allen Township near Messiah College could begin as early as next spring, according to the developer of the plan, which first surfaced three years ago.

The project is being developed by Rider Musser Development LLC, which s backed by starting capital from Messiah College.

Rider Musser expects to seek recommendations for approval from the township planning commission this fall. The next step – final land development approval from the board of commissioners – could be sought before the end of the year for the first phase of the mixed-use project, known as Oakwood Hills.

“We’re seeing light at the end of the tunnel,” said David “Kelly” Phipps, president and CEO of Rider Musser. “We hope to have shovels in the ground by next March or April.”

Oakwood Hills is comprised of three tracts of land totaling more than 100 acres between West Lisburn, Mill and Quail Hollow roads near the college. Messiah College bought the farmland over the last 20 years. The college’s board of trustees then created the independent for-profit corporation, Rider Musser, to oversee day-to-day operations and decision-making related to the development.

The current master plan for the site calls for 392 one- and two-bedroom market-rate apartments spread over eight buildings. Rider Musser also plans to build a community center, playground, picnic and grilling area, pool and dog park for the residential piece of the project.

The original plan presented in 2014 called for a mix of apartments and townhomes, but the latter were scrapped, Phipps said. “We decided to stay with apartments. There is more demand and there is a good market for (rentals) in this area.”

Oakwood Hills, which is slated to cost $125 million to $130 million to develop, also will have a mix of commercial buildings whose construction could begin over the next 12 to 18 months, Phipps said.

The plan calls for multiple restaurants, an event venue/boutique hotel, professional office buildings and pads for a bank and convenience store.

“We want a big anchor before we do that (part of the project),” Phipps said. “It would be great to get a medical tenant.”

Retail development is not expected on the site.

Phipps said the project, which could take 15 to 20 years to develop, should mean good things not only for the college but also for neighbors, who will enjoy new dining options.

Oakwood Hills should feel like an extension of the campus and provide some job opportunities for students, he said.

Rider Musser has not yet hired a contractor and there are no tenants lined up. That said, Phipps acknowledged “keen interest” in the site from banks and restaurant chains who like the location of U.S. Route 15. About 47,000 vehicles go by the area each day.

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