Not the South Fayette of Old: Commercial and residential growth creating a true suburb
When Ryan Eggleston became South Fayette’s township manager in June 2012, the idea of converting the relatively rural area a few minutes from Pittsburgh into a bustling suburb was an ongoing process.
However, the mindset of making the township into one of southwestern Pennsylvania’s most sought after places to live, which used to seem like a pipe dream, is now reality.
With commercial growth continuing to rise to previously unseen heights with the inclusion of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, Hampton Inn, the Crossings at South Fayette and the Gateway Shops, the need to improve the area adjacent to Interstate 79 is only marking the beginning stages.
Commissioners recently approved South Fayette Commons – containing a Dunkin’ Donuts, Washington Financial Bank and a yet-to-be-identified restaurant – and a five-story Fairfield Inn and Suites. The two structures will be at the former St. Anthony’s Church location and the recently closed Knights Inn, 111 Hickory Grade Road.
They will border the Star City Cinemas redevelopment, following the approved selling to Cecil-based Horizon Properties Group LLC for $5 million in September 2015. Horizon plans to demolish the former movie theater and turn the 8.5 acres into a mixed-use commercial project, including a 30,000-square-foot office building and more restaurants and retail.
The concerted effort, especially to improve the main entrance into the township, has led to 26 commercial building permits to be issued over the last five years, approximately creating $51,238,614 in estimated construction costs; an amount of new commercial construction investment that already eclipses the entire amount of the prior decade.
“In the time I’ve been here at least there has always been a desire to have a healthy balance of residential and commercial properties,” Eggleston said. “I know that’s something we have focused on over the last couple of years. We’ve been continuously working on how to promote and work well with developers on how to kick-start that process even more.”
Having restaurants, shopping and other easily accessible amenities have led to the desire of moving into the township, which has added 596 new residential properties since 2011.
It has created a 7.5 percent population increase in the township from April 1, 2010, through July 1, 2015, according to U.S. Census figures. The expansion trumps the growth in nearby communities and the county as a whole, which saw a 0.6 percent increase throughout those same years.
South Fayette’s numbers will continue to rise with the addition of the Hastings neighborhood at the former Mayview site and the all-encompassing Newbury project that will include 200 single-family homes and a 250-unit garden apartment complex. It will go hand-in-hand with the 1.2 million square feet of retail, restaurants, office space and hospitality on the former brownfield site.
“We do like to see housing for all income levels and ages,” said Andrea Iglar, community development director. “It’s not only for people coming into the area but for others that have been in the township and are looking to possibly downsize.”
While for-sale signs are running rampant in new-construction communities and housing plans, there are also the same signs that are attempting to escape the escalating taxes issued by the school district need to accommodate the influx of students.
The lone tax increase over the past 30 years directly from the township came in last year’s hike where the millage raised to 4.48 mills, money directly used to fund long-overdue road repairs.
“We’re very proud to not raise taxes when it’s not necessary,” said Eggleston. “Where we are today is not where we will be tomorrow. How we will get there is through collaboration and working with different people. We want people that have lived here for a hundred years or the people that just moved in a few weeks ago. We’re excited about the opportunities to grow. We think this is a place people want to come for all the right reasons. We want to continue to make it a wonderful place to call home for both residents and businesses.”
However, school district millage rates have risen nine of the last 11 years, with the current rate of $2,670 of school taxes per $100,000 of assessed value. With a median residential property value of $143,300 in the township, taxes for 2016 climbed to $5,145.90 for the average home, nearly $4,000 of which going to the district.
A senior citizen property tax relief program is offered by Allegheny County, but it only pertains to a reduction on municipal and county taxes.
Those tax increases will likely continue, based on the district’s 2016-17 general fund budget, which projects the amount of long-term indebtedness by the end of next June to eclipse $100 million.