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Traffic may be final hurdle for Tech 21

| Tuesday, July 6, 2004

After years of talk, Marshall officials by fall are expected to clear the way for a $200 million office park -- and several thousand jobs -- to come to town.

A partnership known as Tech 21 has been working for more than five years to develop offices, apartments, town houses, two restaurants and a hotel on 223 acres at Brush Creek and Warrendale-Bayne roads.

Township Manager Neil McFadden said if all goes as planned, the township's supervisors could approve the project as soon as September.

"The major issue now is traffic," McFadden said. "If that works out, it's pretty much a go."

The township's planning commissioners -- who review the plan before supervisors -- are expected to discuss the development at their 7:30 p.m. meeting on Wednesday in the township building, 525 Pleasant Hill Road.

Current plans call for 1.28 million square feet of office space on 100 acres, 140 garden apartments or 113 town houses on 14 acres, and two restaurants and a hotel on 5 acres. About 95 acres of the site would be unused.

A major issue holding up the project since it was introduced was how the expected 6,000 vehicles entering and leaving the site daily would be handled.

Developers plan for the development's entrance to be off Warrendale-Bayne Road. The driveway then would continue along the property's ridge and connect with Knob Road.

Numerous turning lanes along Warrendale-Bayne Road, as well as at the intersections of Thorn Hill Road and Route 19, and Thorn Hill and Brush Creek roads, are also to be added.

Developers also plan to widen Warrendale-Bayne Road to four lanes from Wheatland Road to Route 19.

Tech 21 has hired a traffic engineer -- Trans Associates -- to review the proposed traffic improvements to see if changes should be made.

McFadden said until that new study is completed, the plan will not be approved.

"We want to see that we are going to get the same traffic improvements or something better," he said.

The Tech 21 plan was first pitched in 1999, when officials said they planned to break ground by that November on a $350 million park.

The plan hit its first snag when Marshall supervisors didn't like the original design.

A second plan, which called for less ground to be disturbed, received tentative approval in August 2002.

Last fall, Tech 21 officials said they were delayed in moving the plan forward because of the sputtering economy, among other reasons. They now hope to break ground this fall.

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