Developers, Tractor Supply eye downtown Blairsville
February 19, 2014 10:50 AM

BLAIRSVILLE — Two local property developers have lured a national retailer into downtown Blairsville.

Tractor Supply Company, the country’s largest farm and ranch retailer, is planning to open a store in the former BiLo grocery store at East Market and Morrow streets. The retailer hasn’t yet signed a lease for the property, but the property’s developers are working toward finalizing one.

And to that end, the developers asked council on Tuesday to approve more than 15 variances to codes and ordinances related to parking, signage and lighting. The planning commission had recommended the variances be approved, and council followed suit.

The developer is Strategic Real Estate Properties LLC, a partnership of real estate brokers Earl Hewitt and D. Craig Josephson. Hewitt owns Hewitt Real Estate, and Josephson is an independent developer of retail strip malls and box stores.

“SREP is confident that a lease will be completed with the (tenant) shortly and plan submission and construction will be under way sometime this spring,” they said in a statement.

Josephson said that in looking for a tenant, they approached Tractor Supply about setting up shop in Blairsville. And as it turned out, Blairsville had been on a list of possible development locations, but the company was unaware of any available space, Josephson said.

Tractor Supply isn’t new to the area — it has stores in White Township, Latrobe, Kittanning and Johnstown.

A preliminary site plan shows Tractor Supply occupying most of the building, a bit more than two-thirds of its 27,974 square feet. The store is to occupy the side of the building closest to East Campbell Street, which parallels East Market Street.

The developers acquired the building in 2012, about two years after Tops Friendly Markets shuttered the BiLo. Tops came to own the grocery store when it acquired most of the assets of the once mighty Penn Traffic Co.

Blairsville residents have been longing for the return of a downtown grocer, and to an extent, the borough’s hopes for a new residential development along the Conemaugh River are pegged on having one.

The developers said last night they have been in discussions with potential tenants but did not identify them.

Councilman Jim Mollo said he worried whether there would be enough space for a grocer because Tractor Supply is taking most of the building.

But Hewitt and Josephson said they believed there would be.

In fact, they said they have talked with numerous grocers from throughout southwestern Pennsylvania, and not one said the space would work as a full-line grocery store, given the size of the market, the presence of Walmart just up the road, and the investment needed to restore the building, Josephson said.

Instead, they said were told something smaller, something on the order of an Aldi’s, Save-A-Lot or a Bottom Dollar Food, would work better.

Blairsville taxpayers will be helping to subsidize this project, as the property is being enrolled in a state economic development program that abates taxes for a period of time.

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