So what is happening across from Giant?

By on March 12, 2014
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Over the past several years development news has dominated Ephrata Township news. That seems to be a continuing trend.

At this time, nothing specific is planned for the corner of East Main Street and Pleasant Valley Road despite a flurry of recent activity. Much attention has been sparked over the past 10 days as items from the former Ephrata General Store were auctioned off, only to be succinctly followed by the start of demolition on the building. That activity has lead many to wonder what was planned for the site.

According to Ephrata Township Manager Steve Sawyer, demolition of the old building is just a first step toward anticipated commercial development in the future.

“The demolition is being completed by the property owner Richard Stauffer,” explained Sawyer. “He has submitted a “scoping application” for a traffic impact study to PennDOT. This is the first step in getting PennDOT approvals for a future commercial development.”

The owner of 11.34 acres property at 825 W. Main St is Property Investing and Management, operated by Richard Stauffer of 341 Clay School Road, according to department of state filings.

Stauffer has secured demolition permits from the township to remove the existing structures on the property. said Sawyer.

Though some commercial real estate agents have said there has been interest expressed by at least two box stores moving into the space, no plans have been submitted to the township.

The property is zoned mixed use which permits commercial uses.

“At this point, Ephrata Township has not received anything regarding development of this property other than a copy of the PennDOT Scoping Application,” Sawyer said.

The next step for Property Investing and Management will be to prepare and submit a transportation impact study to PennDOT.

Calls to Mr. Stauffer’s cell phone Tuesday morning requesting information about the 10-plus acre property at 825 W. Main St. were not immediately returned.

News was made at last week’s Ephrata Township Supervisors meeting when plans to construct an all new McDonald’s cleared hurdles necessary to move forward to develop the last remaining pad site at the new Ephrata Marketplace at the opposite corner of that intersection.

Owners Joanne and Bill Brown were joined at last Tuesday evening’s supervisors meeting by members of their legal and engineering firm as well as the McDonald’s Corporation. Supervisors were presented with the final development plans and ultimately approved them unanimously.

Key to that discussion was plans for the new McDonald’s to utilize new dual-bay drive-through service which would significantly improve traffic stacking and improve wait time for drive-through customers. Parking, storm water management and lot landscaping requirement were all addressed.

The Browns currently own three other McDonald’s restaurants, including the one located at the Cloister Shopping Center. What makes the proposed new restaurant significant to them is that their daughter, Kristen Fraser will join the family business as the primary owner of it, marking a significant career change for Fraser who was previously an attorney.

Plans are to begin construction on the new upscale format McDonald’s in April, weather permitting. The Browns are hoping to have the new restaurant open to customers by early July.

Asked what impact the new restaurant may have on their existing Ephrata location, the Browns said that once this project is complete they will turn their attention to the McDonald’s. They stressed that final plans could not be further from reality at this point, but could include either a significant renovation or perhaps even demolition outright in favor of a brand new restaurant. Figuring heavily into those plans are concerns often raised about drive-through efficiency.

And finally, Manager Sawyer updated supervisors on plans for the next phase of the rail to trail project called Akron East. It will extend from the existing trail in Ephrata Borough to main street in Akron.

The project has twice been delayed, once at the request of PennDOT and once due to bids which were well beyond the budget of this joint project between Ephrata Township, Ephrata Borough and Akron Borough.

“The project was delayed for approximately 1 ½ years at the request of PennDOT in order for Penn Dot to remove a 3-span concrete beam bridge over the abandoned railroad tracks at Route 272,” explained Sawyer. “PennDOT completed the removal of the bridge and construction of a pedestrian tunnel in August 2013.”

In 2011, Ephrata Township, Ephrata Borough and Akron Borough were awarded a DCNR grant for $188,400 to complete this section of the rail trail.

“The three municipalities bid the project in 2013 with the hopes of beginning construction of the trail as soon as the PennDOT project was completed,” added Sawyer. “In July 2013, bids were opened but the lowest bid was $910,000. This was more than twice the engineer’s estimate for the project.”

In the time since, the three municipalities conducted “value engineering” to redesign certain aspects of the project to reduce the total cost.

“We also requested additional grant funds from DCNR,” said Sawyer. “On February 18, 2014, we received a letter from DCNR informing us that our project has been awarded an additional $98,000 for the project. The total grant funding was increased from $188,400 to $286,400.”

The municipalities are planning to rebid the project in the next 30 days in hopes of completing the trail project by the end of 2014. The revised estimate for the Township’s portion of the project is $105,300 with ½ of the cost paid by the Township ($52,650) and ½ of the cost paid through the DCNR grant ($52,650). A bid opening date is tentatively set for April 25, 2014. Start of construction is tentatively set for June 20, 2014 and a completion date of November 28, 2014.

 

For additional information on Ephrata Township, please visit their website at www.ephratatownship.org. Gary P. Klinger welcomes your feedback via email at klingerglobal@gmail.com or on Twitter @GPKlinger.

 

 

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