Cranberry economic panel eyes new housing development project

The Cranberry Township Economic and Development Committee heard updates Tuesday on the Cranberry Mall, an upcoming outdoor expo, and the ongoing housing development issues the panel has worked on throughout the year.

The committee continued to discuss ways to market a housing project in the township to a developer, but no real progress has been made, committee chair Barrie Brancato said Tuesday during the panel’s monthly meeting.

Cranberry Township supervisors were told earlier this month that the Hudson Group from Mercer was walking away from possible plans for a 90-acre parcel the township owns near UPMC Northwest.

The township had worked with Hudson for about five years, and Hudson was interested in putting in low-income housing and retirement homes at the site.

Hudson had worked for two years to get some tax incentives and was denied three times, the supervisors were told.

Brancato said Tuesday she and other committee members have plans to reach out to UPMC Northwest administrators to discuss the potential for an assisted living type of housing project that could benefit patients and also elderly township residents.

Brancato said plans to meet with hospital leaders should be firmed up next month. The committee also wants to reach out to state lawmakers to find out what has held them back from receiving past grants for housing development ideas.

Economic committee members said they want to focus on coming up with one solid project pitch to streamline the process of generating interest among developers the next time around and promoting the project once they’re ready.

In other business at Tuesday’s meeting, mall property manager Jeff Clark told the committee that one new store, the Bargain Bin, has been opened by a local couple and offers low-cost department store items.

Clark also said the Venango County Co-op remains productive and well-shopped.

Upcoming expos to be held at the mall may represent the biggest action there in the coming months, said township zoning and code enforcement officer Eric Heil.

Heil is organizing the Cranberry Outdoor Expo — tentatively planned for March 11-13 — which he hopes will not only get people out to the area to see the natural spaces and opportunities for outdoor adventure but also get people out and into the mall.

The event already has a buzz around it in terms of the vendors, organizations, and specialists expressing interest in being involved, Heil said.

“I’m just trying to promote hunting, fishing, the outdoors,” said Heil, who added that he’s got so much interest on the vendor side he’d like to see that level of interest duplicated for attendees come spring.

He also wants to highlight the stores, services, and outdoor companies locally that support that industry.

Among those is Black Knight Fishing Line — a national brand that is manufactured in Franklin and used by champions and hobbyists alike, said Heil.

“A lot of people don’t know that,” said Heil, who anticipates having lots of great opportunities for families to come to the expo and discover ways to enjoy their local environment.