Developer terminates plans for South Fayette’s Star City site
Commercial development plan in South Fayette’s Star City site terminated
Just two weeks after South Fayette Township officials were blindsided by UPMC pulling out of its agreement to move into Newbury Market, a different development plan across Route 50 has also been terminated.
Horizon Properties Group, which agreed in October 2015 to buy the former Star City movie theater property next to UPMC’s Children’s Hospital for $5 million from the township, pulled out of its agreement Sept. 29. The Cecil-based developer had planned for a mixed-use commercial development with an office building, a hotel and a strip of restaurants and retail stores.
Community Development Director Andrea Iglar said the two developments falling through within two weeks of each other is a mere happenstance.
“It was unfortunate timing that they both occurred so close to each other, but we don’t think they’re related,” Iglar said. “The overall outlook for the township, development wise, is still very positive, and we’re not letting this hold us back.”
Iglar said Horizon’s decision was “internal” and did not involve the township. Horizon officials could not be reached for comment.
After the sale agreement, Iglar said “chemicals” were found in the ground of the 8.5-acre Star City site at the Bridgeville interchange of Interstate 79 that, prior to being a movie theater in the 2000s, was both a coal mine and a steel mill for much of the 20th century.
Horizon then spent more than a year pursuing Act 2 environmental clearances from the state Department of Environmental Protection and developing a more efficient cleanup plan. Over the summer, the township granted Horizon a due diligence extension to either begin the project, apply for another extension or terminate the agreement by Oct. 31.
Township Manager Ryan Eggleston said he doesn’t “feel comfortable sharing their (Horizon’s) reasons” for exiting the agreement, but that it doesn’t involve the DEP clearances and cleanup.
“Horizon’s reasons to pull out of that project is not related to the clean-up process,” Eggleston said. “We feel that the site should require minimal clean up.”
The original development plan, which the township estimated in 2015 would add about $25 million of taxable property, expected the project to be completed within two years after the agreement, but the environmental aspect delayed it.
While the township wasn’t expecting Horizon to pull out of the two-year-old agreement, Eggleston said the decision isn’t necessarily a surprise.
“Obviously we knew it has taken some time to get to the point that we were at and that there was this environmental component. The more that project went on, the more we thought there may be the opportunity for (Horizon terminating the agreement) to happen.”
Now that Horizon completed the DEP clearances and developed most of the cleanup plan, the township is able to move forward with selling the Star City site without any environmental question marks.
“We’re actually poised nicely now for whatever moves forward,” Iglar said. “It would’ve been nice if Horizon could have brought their project to fruition, but it really worked out for the township in the end that they invested the time and money to go through the environmental process, because it would’ve been a burden for the township to do so.”
The termination doesn’t just affect the Star City site, though.
When the township originally purchased the property in 2009 after the theater closed a year earlier, the commissioners planned to renovate the building into a municipal and recreation center. Iglar said the township then switched plans a few years later to sell the site and use that money to fund a community center and expansion to the municipal buildings on Millers Run Road. Earlier this year, the old Star City theater was demolished for the Horizon development.
“Our community center plan is still in place,” Iglar said. “Obviously the Horizon deal not being completed delays the community center plan. We’re just waiting for where the commissioners decide to go, but the plan is still to sell the Star City site and use those proceeds to build the community center space (on Millers Run Road).”
Despite the UPMC and Horizon decisions happening within a few weeks of each other, Eggleston is still “optimistic” about both the Newbury Market development and the Star City site.
“There’s a lot of synergy in that corridor,” he said. “Horizon is definitely a small step back, but I think we remain very optimistic and excited about what that corridor is going to bring.”