Revised downtown Hershey project clears hurdle

HERSHEY, Pa. (WHTM) — Developers of the proposed Hershey Towne Square project cleared their first hurdle Tuesday night in moving forward with revised plans.

The Derry Township Planning Commission gave unanimous approval to the new design, which would be smaller than those previously submitted. Developer RVG Management & Development Company say the new design still embodies a 130,000 square foot mixed use commercial property featuring offices, parking, retail and restaurants. However, the property will no longer include 32 residential apartments, some of which would overlook Chocolate Avenue, and will include 144 fewer parking spaces than the original design.

“We wanted to do it. We wanted the project to be as grand as possible. It’s downtown Hershey,” said Ed Fetter, RVG’s Senior Vice President of Real Estate.

Fetter says plans changed in March when Derry Township School Board members voted against granting tax increment financing, known as a TIF, to offset the cost of a larger parking garage located within the property.

“So we were willing to contribute a very large amount of private investment in order to get that done,” said Fetter. “We were asking for a little bit of assistance, and that didn’t happen.”

Fetter says some of the parking would have been dedicated to the residents of the apartments, but without subsidies from the Township, the cost of that parking built into the plan would have led to an out-pricing of the Midstate rental market.

“So just economically, we couldn’t afford to do it,” added Fetter.

New conceptual drawings from Lancaster-based TONO Architects shows a scaled-down version of the property, removing several stories from the retail spaces lining Chocolate Avenue at Tilden and Ridge Roads. The new plans reveal single story buildings that will still remain up to 30-feet tall. The plan will continue to include several open outdoor plaza areas as well as approximately 32,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space. The entire property would combine nine separate land parcels into a single 4.6 acre parcel. A renovation of the former Hershey Post Office remains part of the project.

“With all the activity with tourism, there’s been a lack of a downtown environment when people come together in the community,” said fetter. “This is where people can hang out and get a cup of coffee and sit down and enjoy the outdoors and enjoy the downtown. It is walkable to other establishments. So, really we see a lot of people coming here to park, go to the theater, have dinner and have drinks.”

Fetter says a number of retail and restaurant tenants are already in place, but said it was too early for an announcement.

RGV will seek final approval of the design from Derry Township Supervisors in August, and expects to break ground later in the summer. If plans move ahead, businesses within Hershey Towne Square could be open by late spring or summer 2018.

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