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New Children's South seen as development focus

| Sunday, May 5, 2013, 11:58 p.m.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Children's Hospital will soon break ground on a new medical facility on property next to the former Star City Cinema in South Fayette.

For her son's sake, Michelle Unruh of South Fayette will welcome the new Children's South medical facility in autumn 2014.

Every three to six months, her 11-year-old son sees a doctor at the orthopedic department of Children's South in Bethel Park, whose services will move to the facility planned for South Fayette. The sites are about 5½ miles apart.

“Hopefully, in the next few years, he'll be out of there, but just the fact that we have two other kids … knowing that you have something like that close by can only be a benefit,” said Unruh, 40.

Leaders said the $20.5 million South Fayette project by Lawrenceville-based Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC could have another effect: It could be a catalyst for attracting commercial development and revenue to help pay for the growing township's roads, schools and amenities.

Children's South will be adjacent to the former Star City Cinema on Hickory Grade Road.

“It's going to jump-start development along the Route 50 corridor,” Commissioners President Deron Gabriel said.

Between 2000 and 2010, the township's population grew 18 percent to 14,416, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

South Fayette has about 4,300 developable acres, but residential growth areas account for more than 80 percent of that, according to the township's comprehensive plan.

From 2008 to 2012, developers added 442 residential units and 12 commercial buildings, the township said.

“I wish they would stop building housing for a little bit now. I'm saddened by the fact that the ruralness is going to be gone,” Unruh said.

Newcomers have been drawn to South Fayette's quiet neighborhoods, high-performing school district, proximity to Pittsburgh and convenient access to Interstate 79, officials said.

According to a 2012 National Association of Realtors report, 63 percent of parents with children younger than 18 ranked quality of a neighborhood as first among 17 factors that influenced their neighborhood choice.

Quality schools and a newly built home were at the top of the list for Josh Jacobs, 41, and his wife, Jenny, 39, when they were moving to South Fayette from Valparaiso, Ind.

Two months ago, they bought a new house in Newbury, a $450 million development being built off Presto-Sygan Road that eventually will include a retail area called Newbury Market. For now, the family, including three children, does most of its shopping in Mt. Lebanon and Robinson, Jacobs said.

“You know Bridgeville is nice, but they don't have the shopping really. … If the Newbury Market comes through, there's going to be a lot of that right down at the base of our hill,” he said.

UPMC is a tax-exempt nonprofit, but its March 2012 winning bid of $1.65 million to buy the property from the township guaranteed payment of 50 percent of the property taxes that the township and school district would receive based on the building's assessed value.

UPMC also agreed to donate $100,000 to the township's planned redevelopment of the former Star City Cinema as a civic center.

South Fayette's comprehensive plan will focus on using the township's assets to spur commercial and residential growth, but not heavy industrial growth, Gabriel said.

Some of those efforts include working with Newbury's developer to make road improvements along Route 50.

Also, Bridgeville Realty Partners soon will start construction on a shopping center, the Crossings at South Fayette, on eight acres along Washington Pike that will include an Aldi grocery store, township engineer Mike Benton said.

About 30 new, full-time Children's South employees will join the 50 existing employees, said Mark O'Hern, executive director of ambulatory service and business development for UPMC.

The center will offer expanded pediatric outpatient services, primary care and after-hours care.

A ceremonial groundbreaking for Children's South in South Fayette is planned for Tuesday.

Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at412-380-5662 or tparrish@tribweb.com.

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