Michael Blackson

At the intersection of Route 741 and Barbara Street, there has been a battleground right under the noses of residents and drivers.
Over the past 15 to 20 years, the open field next to Penn Manor’s Comet Field and diagonal from Martin Elementary School has been eyed for commercial purposes by a number of potential users. There were talks of a convenience store being built, but no developer was able to take the reins – until two years ago.

An artist’s rendition of the future Millersville Commons, including a Sheetz, a bank, and stores.
An artist’s rendition of the future Millersville Commons, including a Sheetz, a bank, and stores.

According to LancasterOnline.com, Blackford Development acquired the 5.9-acre site from Penn Manor School District for $1.7 million and has since begun work on the Millersville Commons, a $70 million strip mall that will include the 6,800-square-foot Sheetz convenience store, a 3,800 square-foot Members First Bank, and a 15,000 square-foot strip of retail, restaurant, and service tenants. Edward Arnold, Millersville borough manager, said that there is a hamburger tenant and pizza tenant, possibly Nino’s, that will be a part of the new shopping center.
“We don’t have a lot of eating establishments in the area,” he continued.
This was a concern identified by the borough in its 2001 comprehensive plan and the plan’s 2012 update. Additionally, Mr. Arnold noted there is significant traffic, residential and even pedestrian potential – the primary reason the site has been highly sought after in the last 20 years.
“The numbers worked for them [Blackford],” said Arnold. “It’s a high-traffic area. The developer felt he could get tenants in.”
However, complications arose with the site’s insufficient size in accordance with the developer’s plans. The plot of land is divided between Millersville borough and Lancaster Township – commercial and campus/open space zoning respectively. Therefore, Blackford had to go through the process of rezoning it to commercial to build on the entire area.
“[Lancaster Township] required them to go through a subdivision land process,” Arnold said.
Accommodating the surrounding residents and traffic has also been a major concern expressed by the public. A number of additions and extensions, as a result, have been implemented, and will continue to be worked on to allow smooth pedestrian and vehicular movement.
“The residents are going to find a much easier pass through that area,” said Arnold.
So far, an extension of Wabank Road has been completed and is in use to connect with Barbara Street, where it will run behind Millersville Commons. There are also plans for the traffic lights at Route 741 and Barbara to be switched to pedestrian-controlled while Route 741 and Wabank Road will be made into a four-way.
The final budget of $7 million is being pulled from private funds of Blackford, said Arnold. LMS Commercial Real Estate is marketing and leasing the spaces.
Construction for Sheetz has already started and students should expect to see its progress when they return from winter break. Members First Bank is expected to begin at the start of 2014. Millersville Commons is expected to be completed by late summer of 2014.