HERMITAGE, Pa. – In early August, a work crew was hanging temporary traffic signals on Pennsylvania Route 18 in front of the 250,000-square-foot, $21 million distribution center being developed in Hermitage, Pa., by Scannell Properties for FedEx Ground.
The distribution center is expected to begin operations in October, according to FedEx spokesman David Westrick.
“The site was chosen because of its ease of access to major highways, proximity to customers’ distribution centers and a strong local community workforce for recruiting employees,” he says. “The station is expected to open with more than 100 employees, and we will add to the workforce as necessary to meet customer demand for our services.”
The impending FedEx launch is among several development projects in Hermitage, says Mark Longietti, director of business and community development for the city. Hermitage is the fourth-largest city in Pennsylvania by area, at just over 29 square miles, he notes.
A few miles north on Route 18 from the FedEx center, construction got underway in July on a 10,000-square-foot branch for the Mercer County Community Federal Credit Union. Ground was broken in May. The building, at 559 N. Hermitage Road, also will serve as the new headquarters for the credit union.
And although the proposed town center redevelopment of the Shenango Valley Mall on Route 18 remains on hold over litigation with the mall’s remaining anchor tenant, several new food establishments are opening in the coming months.
“There’s quite a bit of activity going on, [including] some stuff percolating beneath the surface,” city manager Gary Hinkson says.
The FedEx project, announced in March 2022, is expected to attract other logistics companies and provide spinoff jobs in businesses such as exterior maintenance, landscaping, snow removal, skilled trades and janitorial services. While not all employees will live in Hermitage, many will live “within a certain radius” of FedEx, Hinkson says.
“A facility like this is a spur to regional economic growth. The fact that a company like FedEx, an international brand, chooses to locate here sends a positive message to other businesses,” he says.
CREDIT UNION PROJECT
Construction of the office and headquarters for the Mercer County Community Federal Credit Union is expected to cost just over $5 million. The expansion was driven by growth in membership and the limitations of the approximately 2,500-square-foot Hermitage branch the credit union occupied, says Sandi Carangi, CEO.
When Carangi started working at the credit union, she says it had 14 employees. Today it employs 30.
“The building needed everything updated,” she says of the former Hermitage branch. “It needed new cabling. It needed a new telephone system and it needed new wiring. There was nowhere to plug in computers.”
When an adjacent building became available, the credit union acquired the property, combined it with its own site and tore down both buildings to create a two-acre site for the new building. In addition to allowing for technology updates, the two-story building will accommodate more back-office operations, a training room and upgraded drive-thru services.
“We’re planning to be up and running by spring of 2024,” Carangi says.
SHENANGO VALLEY MALL
As the Shenango Valley Mall litigation continues, Hermitage is holding off on executing some $5.5 million in grants to redevelop the mall area as a town center.
A representative of Flicore LLC, the Pepper Pike-based real estate firm that bought the mall about a year ago, could not provide any update about the situation.
“We’re excited, even though it’s been a wait, with the mall project. There’s great potential there, particularly on the restaurant-hospitality side,” Longietti says.
That location “sees the most traffic of any intersection between Erie and Cranberry Township,” he continues, making it “an ideal location” for a retail or restaurant operation.
“We’re just seeing the beginning of some retail-commercial development,” Hinkson adds. “I can’t name any names at this point, but we’ve had inquiries from multiple retailers.”
HELP FOR BUSINESS
The city is managing more than $10 million in grants, either for design or actual construction, including two grants totaling $2.7 million for onsite and road improvements to assist Joy Cone Co.’s expansion.
“They move over 5,000 trucks a year in and out of the facility,” assistant city manager Gary Gulla says.
“What we bring to the table are people that are good listeners and are open to working with the business community to ensure that they’re successful, and we’re committed to that,” Hinkson says.
“We want people to know and understand that Hermitage is open for businesses. We want to work with business partners to help deliver their projects,” Longietti affirms.
That often involves assisting business owners with navigating “various requirements,” though not always local ones, Gulla says, “It’s sometimes a bit tricky to be quite honest but we do the best we can to aid the businesses through those processes,” he says.
Commercial developments in various stages of moving forward
include New Castle’s MP Coney Island, which plans to renovate and open in the former Old Stone Church; Ohio’s One Hot Cookie, which is going into the Hermitage Square shopping center; and McAlister’s Deli, Starbucks and Valvoline, which are in the approval process or awaiting permits.
One Hot Cookie is gearing up for a mid-August opening. The city is very business friendly, co-owner Bergen Giordani says.
In addition to being a retail location, the new MP Coney Island is interested in doing sauce production at the Hermitage site.
Hermitage has several capital projects in the pipeline. These include three paving contracts totaling more than $2 million in paving work – the most in any annual program for the city, according to Gulla. Approximately $900,000 of the paving contracts are being funded by American Rescue Plan Act money.
“The board of commissioners, with recommendations from the economic development commission, felt it was important to use this one-time funding to reinvest in infrastructure in the community,” Gula says.
Plans also are being developed to expand the sanitary sewer system at the eastern edge of the city, providing service to properties now served by on-lot systems as well as opening land for residential development.
The city also received a $231,000 commonwealth grant to put toward construction of a dek hockey facility at the Hermitage athletic complex.
Hermitage’s area will grow by just under a square mile once a planned merger with the nearby borough of Wheatland takes place Jan. 1, an effort that earned the city a Governor’s Award for Local Government Excellence.
Despite the borough’s size in terms of geography and population, “quite a bit of work is involved” in the merger, Hinkson says.
Wheatland received $98,000 from Pennsylvania’s Strategic Management Planning Program to assist with some of the merger activities.
“We know we need to amend our zoning ordinances to incorporate the Wheatland properties into Hermitage’s zoning,” Hinkson says.
The city also sought proposals for engineering services to look at the borough’s road infrastructure, particularly in the industrial area.
Longietti, who has taken point on coordinating the merger, has been meeting with the primarily industrial business base in Wheatland as well as Hermitage businesses.
One of the key points he makes is the 80% reduction in municipal property taxes.
“Clearly, businesses and residents are excited about that tax reduction,” Longietti says.
“We think that also lends well to attract and expand businesses in that industrial footprint.”
Pictured at top: Hermitage city officials Mark Longietti, Gary Hinkson and Gary Gulla stand outside the FedEx distribution center that is slated to begin operations in October.