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NV Twp. Commissioners OK Eastland Proposal

Amazon is rumored tenant for old mall property

By Kristen Keleschenyi
The Tube City Almanac
December 30, 2020
Posted in: North Versailles Twp. News

The former site of Eastland Mall, seen after demolition work was completed in 2007. (Tube City Almanac file photo)

The North Versailles Twp. commissioners have unanimously approved a plan for a warehouse and distribution facility to be built at the former Eastland Mall site on East Pittsburgh-McKeesport Blvd.

Due to current COVID-19 restrictions, the vote was taken via phone during the regular December meeting.

The approval came just one day after a virtual zoning board hearing was held to discuss the project.

The tenant interested in the site was represented by Trammell Crow Co., a real estate development company that is in the process of buying the property, currently owned by Benderson Development Co. of Buffalo, N.Y.

The proposal includes building a 142,386 square foot facility that would serve as a 24-hour, seven-days-per-week package distribution site serving the local community and Pittsburgh area.

On Dec. 23, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Internet retailer Amazon is expected to be the tenant.

Trammell Crow and township officials said they were not at liberty to confirm or deny speculation.

“The company is still working on announcing its presence in this marketplace,” said James Murray-Coleman, senior vice president for Trammell Crow’s Pittsburgh Development Team. “They’ve asked us to keep their name quiet at this point but you don’t have to try too hard to figure out who it is.”

The facility would create approximately 500 jobs, paying $15 an hour with benefits.

Officials said construction would likely begin in the second quarter of 2021 and take 12 to 14 months, with an opening date in the first quarter of 2022. There are no zoning variances requested and currently the company is working on acquiring permits from the state Department of Transportation and other agencies.

Upgrades are planned for East Pittsburgh McKeesport Blvd. to improve signage and signaling around the site to accommodate approximately 230 delivery vans and 42 trucks expected to use the site each day, as well as shift workers that would come and go.

“Tractor-trailer deliveries are very few in any one given hour and they’re over the course of the day,” said Mike Takacs, lead civil engineer for Bohler Engineering, which is working on the project. “I think the most we have are two in and two out in a single hour, but for the most part they’re spread out.”

Sound walls would be built to diffuse any noise coming from the site and LED lighting would be installed according to township standards, officials said. The lighting would be focused below the houses on adjacent streets to avoid glare.

“What you will see is a well-illuminated parking lot down on the mall,” Murray-Coleman said. “You won’t see the direct light coming at you, but what you will see is the reflection of that light off of the vans and asphalt parking area.”

Part of the future plans for the tenant is to become a partially solar-powered operation, with solar panels to help generate electricity for the facility, planners said. The company is also in the process of converting its fleet into electric-powered vehicles. Conduits will be installed on site to power charging stations.

Murray-Coleman said the company hopes to wrap up all of the loose ends by the end of January in order to keep on-track to begin construction in the spring.

The vacant Eastland site has been a huge concern for township residents ever since the mall closed in 2005. Township Commissioner Tracy Yusko is hopeful this plan will go through.

“We have tried numerous times to sell that property to bring something in here to better this community and every time we would do something it falls through,” she said. “We have sat through many a meeting with people complaining about how it looks over there and it's wasted space. I have to say I’m very happy to have this coming in.”

Kristen Keleschenyi is a freelance writer in North Versailles Twp. and one of the hosts of the Kristen & Amber Show on WMCK Internet Radio at 5 p.m. Saturdays, 9 p.m. Mondays and 4 p.m. Thursdays. She may be reached at kbishop25@hotmail.com.

Originally published December 30, 2020.

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