Restarted redevelopment project spurs hopes of livelier downtown Hershey

HERSHEY, Pa. (WHTM) – A stalled plan to revitalize downtown Hershey is getting new life from a new developer, spurring hopes among business leaders that it’s the start of something more.

“It’s definitely changing,” Jessica Demopoulos said, “and it’s definitely growing.”

Demopoulos, co-owner of the Chocolate Avenue Grill, has seen it before. “It’s been a long process,” she said. The lot across from her restaurant — a semi-developed city block that once housed a post office — has tried to be more than that before.

“We get excited and then we get saddened that nothing’s going on,” she said.

After RVG Management and Development Company bought the property last fall, it was back to the drawing board.

“We really do want to see our town grow,” Demopoulos said. “We want to welcome the tourist industry, we want to welcome the locals downtown.”

A spokesman for Tono Architects said the company plans to develop and build what they’re calling Hershey Towne Square with RVG. In the shadow of Hersheypark, on Chocolate Avenue, the $28 million project would include apartments, retail and restaurant space, and a parking garage.

“Everything seems to come back to a traditional downtown,” Dave Black, president and CEO of the Harrisburg Regional Chamber & CREDC, said.

Black added that this kind of project has the potential to make Hershey about more than, well, Hershey. “Maybe they spend the day at the park and then, okay, let’s go downtown to Hershey,” he said of visitors. “Just a different kind of experience.”

“We want more retail,” Demopoulos said. “We want things to do.”

She worries it’ll attract big chains to a section of downtown already overwhelmed by locally-owned restaurants like her own; but at the same time she welcomes change that welcomes people to downtown Hershey.

“We want this to be a destination where, you know, whether you live in town or you’re coming from out of town,” Demopoulos said, “you can spend the day here and find things to do.”

Developers hope to finish construction by next year, but the Downtown Hershey Association said that’s still a little up in the air due to the uncertainty of special tax financing the project needs.

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