Harborcreek PA comprehensive plan includes commercial redevelopment
Harborcreek’s new draft comprehensive plan outlines three main goals for the township — commercial district revitalization, adding alternatives to single-family housing while preserving greenspace, and improving recreation and bike and pedestrian trails.
“We haven’t changed what our mindset has been, for continued, steady, controlled growth,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Tim May. “We’re not looking to plow under grape vineyards to put up a big box store. We’re looking to redevelop the commercial areas we have while still preserving our character and greenspace.”
“In general, we are very happy with where the township is as a community,” said Harborcreek Township Supervisor Dean Pepicello. “The very few changes requested concern preserving commercial districts at the interchanges and Buffalo Road and adding residential options.”
Residents shared their visions for the township in surveys and public hearings last year.
Comments on the draft plan are being accepted in an online survey through Feb. 23.
Vision for ‘Buffalo Road Town Square’
Harborcreek doesn’t have a downtown, but the Buffalo Road commercial district could be revitalized as a kind of “town square,” or shopping, dining and entertainment hub.
“Encouraging mixed use spaces and activating the District with local restaurants, bars, shops, and hometown flavor can promote a sense of belonging and attract residents and visitors,” according to the draft comprehensive plan.
Mixed residential and commercial development, streetscape improvements, better pedestrian and bike access from nearby neighborhoods, and special events could create a “center of gravity” at the town square, according to the draft plan.
“There’s definitely community support for a town square feeling on Buffalo Road,” Pepicello said. “It’s not something that could happen overnight but we’re opening up the possibilities for it.”
Attracting a variety of businesses and revitalizing the former Kmart plaza were ranked as top priorities by residents in last year’s community surveys.
Kmart closed in 2017. The Big Lots store in the plaza closed in 2018.
Harborcreek Township had taken steps to buy the plaza last year, after it had been appraised for $4.4 million. An application from the property owner to demolish the stores ended the purchase plan.
Demolition began Friday and is expected to be completed within a month.
The township had planned to redevelop the property. It previously bought the long-vacant Harborcreek Mall on East Lake Road for $557,970 and sold the property to Affordable Senior Housing of Williamsville, New York, for $550,101 two years later, in 2011. The company opened a 119-unit senior housing complex on the site in 2013.
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Vision for Buffalo-Behrend Trail
Harborcreek’s draft comprehensive plan also envisions improved pedestrian and bike connections between township neighborhoods, business districts and recreation areas.
Those connections could include a Buffalo-Behrend Trail between the Buffalo Road commercial district and Penn State Behrend.
“Getting students and faculty easily and safely from campus to the Buffalo Road Corridor would be mutually beneficial to the businesses as well as these potential patrons,” according to the draft plan, which recommends looking at the feasibility of building the trail.
The township also will look at possible connections to the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail, which includes a paved route between Penn State Behrend and Erie’s bayfront.
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Vision to attract young residents and retain the aging
Almost 83% of the homes in Harborcreek are single-family homes, and those don’t always appeal to young professionals or the aging.
“The types of housing they desire are lower maintenance, smaller and offer modern amenities,” according to the draft comprehensive plan.
Preserving greenspace while identifying areas for more apartment, townhome and condominium developments could provide options for older residents to remain in Harborcreek once their families are grown and help reverse the trend of younger residents leaving the township. About 1,620 working-age residents left the township between 2010 and 2020, according to plan data.
More housing options also could attract some of the 4,200 people who work in Harborcreek but live elsewhere.
The draft comprehensive plan is posted on the township website at www.harborcreek.org.
The Harborcreek Township Planning Commission has recommended its approval.
Another public hearing on the plan will be held during a township supervisors’ meeting on March 6 at 9 a.m. Supervisors are expected to vote on the plan following the hearing.
Once the comprehensive plan is approved, supervisors will work with the public and community organizations to implement plan recommendations, May said.
The Harborcreek Engagement Team, a nonprofit organization of business and community leaders, could function as a Main Street organization to help retain and attract businesses, market the township and organize events for the public, according to the draft plan.
Contact Valerie Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org.