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South Fayette to seek new proposals for Star City Cinemas site

| Saturday, March 3, 2018, 1:12 a.m.
The former Star City Cinema site in South Fayette has been cleared for development. In February 2018, township commissioners rejected two bids from companies seeking to buy the land to develop it.
South Fayette Twp.
The former Star City Cinema site in South Fayette has been cleared for development. In February 2018, township commissioners rejected two bids from companies seeking to buy the land to develop it.

South Fayette commissioners last month voted 5-0 to reject two proposals for the development of the former Star City Cinemas site.

“We were a little taken aback by the amount, that was part of it,” board President Raymond Pitetti said. “Now that there's more movement in the Newbury (Market) plan across the street, we believe that this might be a more valuable property.”

Pitetti also cited the board's preference for a mixed-use area, ideally consisting of restaurants, shops and residences.

The township, which purchased the 8-acre Star City property for $5 million in 2009, originally planned to turn the old theater building into a community center. In September of last year, Horizon Properties Group backed out of an agreement with the township to buy the site after originally offering to pay $5 million for it.

“When Horizon discontinued their agreement, the township issued a new request for proposals, which was the one we issued toward the end of last year and the one for which we just got the bids that were rejected,” township spokeswoman Andrea Iglar said.

The township now plans to issue a fourth public request for proposals. Real estate firm Burns & Scalo, owner of Abele Business Park and Bursca Business Park, hopes to bid yet again. The firm's proposal to build a 4,000- to 6,000-square-foot complex of five sit-down restaurants was rejected last month.

“We've bid on this property three times prior, and we really care about what goes in on this site because of our business park residents,” said Jim Scalo, the company's president.

Continental Real Estate Cos. outmatched Burns & Scalo's bid of $1.5 million with its own $2.8 million plan to build senior housing on the site, located at the foot of the Interstate 79 ramp on Millers Run Road.

According to Iglar, township commissioners felt senior housing would be a great amenity, but not necessarily the best use for the property.

Scalo feels the township's increasing population has outstripped commercial growth and residents have begun to notice.

“What we hear from the residents and what we hear from the businesses is there's a lack of amenities, especially food. So that made us look to Star City for what we believe is the highest value for the township, and that's the development we proposed,” he said.

Scalo also mentioned, however, that any developer that purchases the site likely will have to spend money on environmental cleanup. The former Star City property is one of several state-designated Act II sites in the Pittsburgh area, due to underground chemicals left behind from a steel mill that once occupied the land.

“If you've never touched the site it's fine, because it's been encapsulated. But the minute you start to develop the site, you've got to deal with what you open up, so that's a cost,” Scalo said.

Pitetti believes Newbury's early growing pains had the biggest impact on the amount of the latest offers.

The area hasn't developed very quickly, he said, and this may have caused the two companies to undervalue the property. He did note that development in Newbury has begun to pick up, however, especially now that Topgolf has decided to move in.

Overall, Scalo remains very optimistic about the location's potential.

“The demographics are there, the density's there in South Fayette to support this. Any traffic coming off the interstate would be a bonus,” he said.

Sam Bojarski is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

Correction: South Fayette Township purchased the property for $5 million. The print version and the original online version incorrectly identified the purchase price.

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