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$15M business park project on parkway to restart development around Pittsburgh airport

| Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

A $15 million business park project in Moon will recharge efforts to develop land around Pittsburgh International Airport, officials said on Friday.

“Because of the downturn of the economy, there hasn't been a whole heck of a lot of development since 2010. But we're starting to see some significant activity,” said Randy Forister, the Allegheny County Airport Authority's development director.

Developers started construction on two single-story buildings totaling 106,000 square feet of space along Cherrington Parkway, near the Ewing Road and Thorn Run interchanges on Business Loop 376. The buildings will anchor Pittsburgh International Business Park. Mortgage services company ServiceLink will move into the buildings, to be completed next summer.

Penny Mercadante, a senior vice president at ServiceLink, said about 700 employees will work in the new buildings. They will move from another location in Moon. ServiceLink's Hopewell operation will be unaffected.

Columbus, Ohio-based Continental Real Estate Cos. and Cranberry-based Chaska Property Advisors Inc. will spend $12 million to $15 million developing the buildings, Forister said.

“Very few business parks in Western Pennsylvania are serviced by two full interchanges off a primary interstate,” said Chaska President Richard Donley.

A deal between the airport authority and developers requires the companies to build at least one new building at the 40-acre Pittsburgh International Business Park every 18 months. Six buildings are planned.

The project is the first major development on airport property since Dick's Sporting Goods Inc. moved into a new, $150 million corporate headquarters in neighboring Findlay in early 2010. About 1,500 people work there.

Private companies have spent about $400 million developing more than 2 million square feet of manufacturing, industrial, office and cargo space on 2,300 acres around the airport, Forister said. He said about 5,400 people work in the developments.

The airport authority and county used about $60 million in grants, tax breaks, loans and tax increment financing to help attract development by building streets, grading sites and installing utility lines.

Construction of the $14 million Cherrington Parkway Extension, which extended Cherrington to Ewing Road, helped spur development of the business park, officials said. The Allegheny County Redevelopment Authority provided $2 million for the project. The Moon Transportation Authority supplied $2.5 million, and the rest came from state grants and loans.

“We are jump-starting business development, stimulating job growth and attracting new business here,” Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said.

Development of airport property, which for years “had just been sitting here, doing nothing,” also helps the airport authority, which receives lease payments for its land that is developed. In 2002, the airport authority's annual development revenue was about $300,000. Now the authority brings in about $1.4 million a year, which goes toward reducing the cost for airlines to operate at the airport, said Brad Penrod, the Airport Authority's executive director.

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

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