Hamilton Crossings will have up to 570,000 square feet of retail space. In public meetings, the developers have mentioned its tenants will include restaurants and at least one bank.
“We’re negotiating with a number of tenants, but are not prepared to disclose their names,” said Fogel. “If we receive the variances we’ve requested, we will start to finalize deals with the rest of those tenants.”
Fogel said the project will generate more than 400 construction jobs and more than 1,000 permanent jobs.
He said a consistent architectural design theme will be evident throughout Hamilton Crossings, adding Target and Costco have modified and upgraded their prototypical “anytown USA type of designs” to have Lower Macungie specific stores, not just block stores that could be plopped down anywhere else in the country.
The developers don’t want visitors to be confronted by a big wall of industrial-looking buildings, said Fogel. He said Hamilton Crossings will have landscaping and colorful flowers, and outdoor seating areas and several gathering places.
The developers also propose to have 2.5 miles of walkways through the shopping center.
Zoning Hearing Board
Lower Macungie’s Zoning Hearing Board will consider granting Hamilton Crossings numerous variances when it meets Tuesday night.
Some variances being requested already were approved by the zoning hearing board when it ruled on an earlier version of the project. Fogel said they must be requested again because Hamilton Crossings had to be completely redesigned after the mine wash material was identified.
Pandl said both Lower Macungie’s planning commission and township commissioners are recommending zoning hearing board approval for all variances being sought, but the zoning board is an independent body.
Getting that approval from the zoning hearing board is “critical,” said Fogel, because those variances are needed to proceed with the design.
“If we don't get some of the variances, it would impact our design and potentially the viability of the project,” said Fogel.
“If one or more of the variances are not granted, we would have to make changes to the design to comply with the underlying zoning ordinance and we would likely not be able to provide the design that the township has supported.”
Variances are needed for two gas stations that will be part of the complex, including a gas station/convenience store on the northwest corner of Hamilton Boulevard and Krocks Road and gas pumps for Costco customers, between the Costco store and Route 222.
Assuming the zoning hearing board grants the variances, Fogel said detailed land development planning will be the next phase of the project. Those plans ultimately must be approved by township commissioners. But most of the review work will be done by the planning commission, which makes recommendations to commissioners. Because of the size and complexity of the project, Pandl expects that will involve several meetings.
“We will provide a very air-tight set of plans so the township’s process to review them is easier,” said Fogel,
Hamilton Crossings also will need a conditional use permit from Lower Macungie, said Pandl.
She predicted the township’s final approval of the project should take no more than a year. The developers hope to begin construction in 2013 and open Hamilton Crossings by late 2014 or early 2015.
The project also will need approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the state Department of Environmental Resources. Pandl said the township can give its final approval subject to PennDOT and DEP approvals if the township’s review of the project finishes first.
Total property taxes collected on the property will increase from $10,000 a year to as much as $1.4 million a year if Hamilton Crossings is built. But the county, township and school district will give up a portion of that increased tax revenue for up to 20 years if they agree Hamilton Crossings is worthy of tax increment financing-- TIF.
If they do not agree, said Fogel, they will receive no additional tax revenue because the property probably never will be developed.
TIF is used for projects that have fairly widespread community support but significant financing gaps, according to John Kingsley of the Lehigh County Industrial Development Authority, which would administer the proposed Hamilton Crossings TIF district.
In addition to mine wash remediation, the Hamilton Crossings development team plans to use TIF funds for infrastructure improvements that will benefit the public, such as upgrading storm water systems to reduce flooding in the area and upgrading roads so Hamilton Crossings does not create traffic problems.
Fogel said those traffic improvements will include a “collector/distributor road-- a major through lane that we’ll be building along the bypass.” He said other significant improvements will be made to Krocks Road and Hamilton Boulevard.