What a difference two weeks can make, and that isn’t necessarily a good thing for South Fayette.
This year, the Route 50 corridor near the Bridgeville interchange to Interstate 79 was buzzing with potential. UPMC received conditional approval to build a $211 million hospital, the former Star City movie theater was demolished with the site prepared for a new retail development and TopGolf was making plans to build its indoor golfing facility.
Only the latter is still in play.
UPMC pulled the plug on its hospital plans without explanation Sept. 20, while Horizon Properties Group informed the township nine days later it was terminating its $5 million purchase of the 8.5-acre Star City site.
Talk about a one-two punch to the gut.
Horizon had planned to build a mixed-use commercial development with an office building, hotel and strip of restaurants and retail stores. All are services that would have catered to the families, patients and staff at the proposed UPMC hospital.
The two would have complemented each other perfectly and brought development to a prime spot in the township near the interstate. It isn’t a stretch to think the change in plans by the health-care provider directly impacted the retail developer across Route 50.
“It was unfortunate timing that they both occurred so close to each other, but we don’t think they’re related,” community development Director Andrea Iglar said of the news. “The overall outlook for the township, development wise, is still very positive, and we’re not letting this hold us back.”
Unfortunately, the loss of Horizon and its $5 million it paid the township to purchase the Star City site will have a long-lasting impact in South Fayette.
Nearly a decade ago, the township had purchased the Star City movie complex and considered converting it into a new municipal office building that included a recreation center, community center and library. As the logistics of converting a movie theater until useable space became cumbersome and the cost of the project increased, the township abandoned the plan and sold the site.
The township had planned to use the money from that sale to expand and renovate its current, albeit very outdated, municipal building just a few miles away on Millers Run Road. Without the funds from Horizon, the project, which had already been delayed, could be in jeopardy.
Iglar said the expanded community center is still in the works, although it will once again depend on the sale of that Star City site, which at one time was thought to be a savvy real estate move, but now appears to be an albatross hanging around the township’s neck.
Both the Star City and Newbury Market sites are in prime property location that would be a dream for developers, so it’s only a matter of time before a new buyer comes forward.
But it’s still an unfortunate blow to a growing township that now boasts one of the best school districts in the state, but has struggled to keep up with its booming population in what was vast farmland just a couple of decades ago.
How much longer must the township and its residents wait for the municipal complex they deserve?