RNC delegates

Jim Vasilko of Johnstown answers questions on Monday, July 18, 2016, at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

A Johnstown construction business owner is working to launch plans for a retail plaza later this year.

Johnstown Construction Services President Jim Vasilko first announced plans for the planned Eisenhower Boulevard development in June and said work is progressing to complete a site plan this spring for a project that would likely feature several national chain outlets.

Vasilko owns the four-acre tract where the project is slated to be built.

Efforts are underway to finalize deals with several tenants, he said. Because retailers all design their shops and eateries with a specific square footage in mind, the initial agreements will determine the proposed layout and the total number of tenants.

In October, Vasilko estimated the small center might offer 5,000 square feet of linear retail space as well as a restaurant or two.

Demand for Richland Township retail space has increased as the economy has rebounded, he said.

Vasilko’s envisioned plaza would be built across the road from Richland Town Center, the region’s newest shopping center.

Richland Town Centre is home to nearly 500,000 square feet of retail space with 33 stores, shops or eateries, including a Wal-Mart Supercenter, Best Buy, Bed Bath and Beyond and TJ Maxx – as well as Starbucks, Panera Bread, Five Guys and Chili’s.

Altoona-based Pennswood Commercial Realty handles leasing for Richland Town Centre, which is currently 100 percent occupied.

Vasilko contracted with Pennswood last year to fill his retail site as well.

“This plaza has a natural synergy with the Richland Town Centre, and that’s going to lend itself to several options, including restaurants,” Pennswood’s Bob Varner said.

The fact that a multi-use path is being built through the corridor to connect University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown students with the area’s shopping district will only make the plaza more attractive, he added.

“At this point, we feel good about it,” Varner said. “It’s only a matter of time.”

‘A lot of interest again’ 

The University Park Shopping Plaza corridor in Richland Township has also seen a jump in activity over the past year.

A site plan was approved in the fall for a Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen to be built inside a former medical office building.

Work is expected to get underway on the restaurant this spring.

A Giant Eagle grocery store renovation added beer and wine sales nearby and also carved out room for a True Value Hardware center, which opened in November.

Varner said there is also a revived interest in the former Jim Dewar’s Car World property, a sprawling tract of land next to a several occupied shopping plazas that was cleared for new development several years ago.

“All of a sudden, we’re seeing a lot of interest on that property again,” Varner said. “I think, in 2020, you’re going to see a large occupant locate onto a big portion of that property.” 

David Hurst is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5053. Follow him on Twitter @TDDavidHurst and Instagram @TDDavidHurst.

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