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New developer takes on stalled project in downtown Hershey

Construction could begin this summer on mixed-use Hershey Towne Square

A stalled redevelopment project in the heart of downtown Hershey may soon be back on under a new owner with a new vision for a mixed-use complex that should be a central hub and spark a wave of reinvestment in Chocolatetown.

Wormleysburg-based RVG Management & Development Co., a company known for developing grocery-anchored shopping centers, office buildings and residential communities across the Mid-Atlantic, bought the former Hershey post office property at 169 W. Chocolate Ave. last year after the previous owner failed to restructure financing to continue the nearly five-acre project.

RVG stepped in during the restructuring effort to negotiate a buyout of the property because it saw a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to create a central gathering place in Hershey, said Steve Dayton, RVG’s senior vice president of real estate.

“We want to bring new life and activity to the downtown,” he said.

The property changed hands in October for $3.8 million, according to Dauphin County deed records.

Construction on the post office building, part of what was dubbed the Hershey Downtown Center, stopped in early 2016. The plan was to renovate the existing two-story limestone building and then build two additional structures that could house a mix of shops, restaurants, offices and personal-service businesses.

But the post office portion was never finished and the other buildings never started.

RVG has renamed the project the Hershey Towne Square. The new plan, designed by Lancaster-based Tono Architects, still includes renovating the post office building, but for use as a multi-tenant office building. A new multi-level public parking garage would be built next to that building.

At the front of the property, two multi-tenant buildings would be constructed along Chocolate Avenue. One would be a three-story, 82,689-square-foot mixed-use retail and residential building with 32 one- and two-bedroom apartments. The second would be a 12,900-square-foot single-story retail building.

RVG believes its plan brings a modern aesthetic to the downtown that will blend with Hershey’s industrial past.

“This is a significant investment in this parcel. We believe in the real estate and the community,” Dayton said.

The new owners also believe this project will “raise everybody’s game” and drive new investments along Chocolate Avenue.

“I think you will see reinvestment up and down the corridor,” Dayton said.

Ed Fetter, also a senior vice president of real estate for RVG, said everything would be built at the same time and not in phases, as was originally planned for the site.

He hopes the project will garner necessary approvals from Derry Township over the coming months, so construction can get underway this summer. If that happens, he expects buildings would be delivered by the beginning of 2018 and tenant fit-out work would follow.

RVG hasn’t begun leasing spaces, but Fetter said the goal is to attract national and regional retailers and restaurants. The developer is looking to bring some new brand names to the midstate, he said. The goal is five restaurants for the site, most with outdoor seating.

The estimated $28 million project could then open by the spring or summer of 2018.

The township’s design advisory board, which reviews proposals and make recommendations of appropriateness for various construction and property improvement activities within downtown Hershey, will review the design at its next meeting on Feb. 27.

From there, the plan would need to go through the township’s planning commission and board of supervisors.

RVG also will be seeking tax-increment financing, a public-private partnership tool that involves all local taxing bodies, to help pay for the cost of the parking garage. The project will add about 500 parking spaces in the downtown, most of those in the parking garage. They will be free for the public to use.

A parking garage is needed in order to maximize density on the site, officials said.

Access points on the site would be signalized intersections at Ridge and Linden roads.

Bennett Williams Commercial is handling the leasing of the site.

View renderings of Hershey Towne Square in the slideshow below.

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