Wal-Mart buys strip mall

| Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2007

The troubled West Hills Shopping Center in Moon has been sold to Wal-Mart for $4.7 million.

The giant discount retailer, which continues to aggressively expand in Western Pennsylvania, hasn't decided on a use for the property, said spokesman Jim Davis on Tuesday.

"We have just completed the purchase, and we are developing some ideas for that spot," Davis said. "It's a very attractive site from our prospective."

Either a Wal-Mart store or one of the company's Sam's Club warehouse outlets are possibilities, he said.

"We have been informed by Wal-Mart that they would present their plans for the center to the township planning commission" later this month, said Gregory Smith, township manager and secretary. He said no details have been forthcoming from Wal-Mart.

According to documents filed with Allegheny County recorder of deeds, the owners of the property were John H. Swartz Jr. and Richard J. Swartz, doing business as Ace Tire Co.

Last May, the Allegheny County Redevelopment Authority authorized the owners to seek tax increment financing to rebuild the center, with a Target store as the leading retailer. Such financing plans allow taxes generated from development to pay for infrastructure improvements.

"We later canceled the tax increment financing approval when the Target deal failed to materialize," said Dennis Davin, the authority's executive director.

Wal-Mart's Davis said plans for the Moon property are unrelated to Wal-Mart's proposed supercenter in Kilbuck, where land problems have plagued the developer and caused landslide problems on Route 65. "This is a totally separate area from Kilbuck," said Davis.

Located at 925 Broadhead Road and University Drive, West Hills Shopping Center was built in the early 1960s by the late Richard B. Rogers.

At one time, national retailers such as S.S. Kresge and A&P had stores there. Current tenants include Frederick's, a bar that features karaoke, World Class Fitness, an off-track betting facility, and Pizza Joe's.

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