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Residents' reaction mixed to plans for Northway site

| Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012, 8:55 p.m.

Residents who live near the Shoppes at Northway and the former Northway Elementary School in Ross Township expressed mixed reactions to a plan to incorporate the school property into the shopping center, a representative of the developer said.

About 225 to 250 people attended a public meeting at the shopping center Dec. 5 that was part of the rezoning process for the school property, said Kevin Fallon, vice president for development with Levey & Co. of Akron. Levey purchased the Shoppes at Northway through its LRC Northway Mall Acquisitions LLC from Jefferson-Pilot Investments LLC on Nov. 30 for $12 million, according to a deed filed in Allegheny County.

The developer also has a sales agreement to purchase the closed Northway Elementary School next door and expects to reveal plans for the two properties early next year.

Recently, Levey officials filed an application with the township to rezone the 6-acre school property from residential to commercial. Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church is leasing the building from the North Hills School District for use as a temporary home while the congregation builds a new church in McCandless.

Levey has a sales agreement to purchase the school building for $2.46 million. The school board approved the purchase earlier this year.

“We will eventually demolish the school building and integrate that site into the total master plan of development,” said Kevin Fallon, Levey's vice president for development.

“We are kicking around a lot of possible development ideas for the mall and the school site, but no master plan has yet been developed,” he said.

He confirmed that some thought is being given to including a hotel there.

Fallon said if the developer goes ahead with the plan to purchase the school building, the site probably will be used for additional retail space.

Some residents who attended the Dec. 5 meeting worried that making the school site a commercial area will greatly increase traffic on Browns Lane, Fallon said. The school property is on Browns Lane. It is behind the shopping center, which fronts on McKnight Road.

Other residents, Fallon said, are please at the idea of improved shopping options at the center.

Township officials will hold a hearing on the rezoning Dec. 20, Ross building inspector Dennis Schack said.

The mall's tenants at 8000 McKnight Road include Dick's Sporting Goods, Marshalls, PetSmart, Shoe Carnival, Aldi, Mamma Lucia restaurant, T-shirt shop Rock America and Northway Shoes & Repair.

Jefferson-Pilot Investments Inc. of Greensboro, N.C., acquired the Shoppes at Northway complex at a sheriff's sale in May for $1,597, according to Allegheny County records.

The previous owner was Northway Group LP, which purchased the property in 2000 for $24.2 million. The ownership included as a partner McKinney Equity Management Corp., according to state records.

The change in ownership was a result of a foreclosure lawsuit filed by Jefferson-Pilot against Northway Group for failing to pay $23.7 million owed to Lincoln National Life Insurance Co., the main lender on the property.

Compass Advisory Partners LLC was selected by Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Christine A. Ward as receiver for Shoppes.

The shopping center opened as a strip mall in 1953. In 1962, an enclosed portion was added above the existing strip center, and it became the first indoor mall in western Pennsylvania.

More recently, some of the interior portions of the mall were demolished, and the setup was changed to one in which some stores have external entrances.

Sam Spatter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7843 or sspatter@tribweb.com. Madelyn Dinnerstein is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6368 or mdinnerstein@tribweb.com

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