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Former school coming down; plans not revealed

| Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Randy Jarosz | For the McKnight Journal
The former Northway Elementary School on Browns Lane is in the process of demolition Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2103. Levey & Co. of Akron, the owner of the adjacent Shoppes at Northway, bought the property to develop it.
Randy Jarosz | For the McKnight Journal
The former Northway Elementary School on Browns Lane is in the process of demolition Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2103. Levey & Co. of Akron, the owner of the adjacent Shoppes at Northway, bought the property to develop it.

The former Northway Elementary School is being demolished, but developers with shopping-center owner Levey & Co. are not yet revealing a master plan for the Shoppes at Northway and the adjacent school property.

The school is being torn down now because “the timing was good to get it done,” said Gary O'Nesti, special projects manager for Levey & Co.

“We're working diligently toward the development program we talked about last year,” O'Nesti said.

Levey & Co., based in Akron, Ohio, acquired the Shoppes at Northway, once called the Northway Mall, for $12 million in November 2012 from Jefferson-Pilot Investments LLC.

Jefferson-Pilot acquired the mall in a foreclosure lawsuit filed against the previous owner, the Northway Group, which failed to pay $23.7 million owed to the main lender on the property, Lincoln National Life Insurance Co.

Levey & Co. purchased the nearby school property April 26 from the North Hills School District for about $2.5 million with plans to add to the shopping-center development.

When the school site was acquired in the spring, developers announced plans to rezone and demolish the building within 18 months so it could be integrated into the master plan for development.

“It's been sort of a quiet, long wait for some of us,” said Craig Linner, president of the Ross Township Business & Economic Development Corp., which goes by RED. “But they did tell us early on that it would be about a year and a half before things began happening, so I'm expecting to see progress in 2014.”

Linner, whose group promotes business in Ross, said he's excited to see progress and hopes the redeveloped Shoppes at Northway will fill the financial “middle hole” between discount stores and high-end retail on McKnight Road.

Shoppes at Northway, the oldest indoor mall in western Pennsylvania, has seen increased vacancies in the past several years, and the future of one of the mall's anchors, Dick's Sporting Goods, is in question.

Dick's officials are planning to open a new store in the McCandless Crossing development less than two miles north on McKnight Road. Calls to Dick's officials inquiring about the future of the Northway location were not returned.

Despite the mall's low traffic, some smaller shops do well in the location, and the owners anticipate a long tenancy in the complex.

Northway Shoes and Repair co-owner Danny DeMarco, 32, of Richland Township said his business is doing well at Northway. “We're excited about the change that's going to take place here,” said DeMarco, who owns the business with his father. Tony. “There's no other place we'd rather be.”

The business expanded into a neighboring space in the spring.

Northway Shoes and Repair has been a staple in the mall since it opened in 1953, and DeMarco and his father have a multiyear lease.

DeMarco estimates the business repairs about 2,000 pairs of shoes each month and said he thinks Levey & Co. has “every intention of making this one of the nicest shopping centers in the country.”

Kelsey Shea is a staff writer at Trib Total Media. Reach her at kshea@tribweb.com or at 724-772-6353.

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