Shoppes at Belmont looks to change retail experience

LANCASTER, P.A. --- A $90 million shopping center-residential complex in the works is building up to be the first of it's kind in Lancaster County.

The Shoppes at Belmont off Fruitville Pike is starting to take form after about six months of construction.

Kevin Lahn, project manager and executive vice president of Waters Retail group, said Chick-Fil-A is on pace for a January 2018 opening.

He also said stores such as Dick's Sporting Good and Michael's are preparing to be done by the end of the year.

"We've actually turned over the building shells to Whole Foods and Nordstrom Rack," said Lahn.

Lahn said stores and restaurants will be holding soft openings along the way with the completion on pace for spring, early summer 2018.

The unique addition will come from Charter Homes when they create single family and town homes besides the shopping complex.

Tom Baldrige, President and CEO of Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce, said he believes the unique retail-residential combination maximizes what available land they have left.

"The denser the housing, the more approximate to some amenities, like a grocery store, that people can walk to instead of getting in their car to drive to just creates a better quality of life and uses our land more efficiently," said Baldrige.

Shoppes at Belmont is in an area familiar with the retail scene.

The Red Rose Commons shopping center sits right across the street.

Baldrige said retail clusters benefit the area.

"They go to one place and they have many different options that are approximate and they're not driving ten miles between sites throughout the county," said Baldrige.

Last March, Kmart on Fruitville Pike closed.

Baldrige said he believes The Shoppes at Belmont can help re-purpose empty spaces left behind.

"It's typically not all that long, at least, fortunately, in Lancaster County, where you hear of another developer that's proposing a new use for that location," said Baldrige.

Lahn said they secured leases at the right time to avoid any real impact from the "Amazon effect."

However, the rapid growth of online shopping has changed some plans, for examples, from Target.

"I joke, I call them moving Target because they change the size of their store...Up, down, up, down...according to what's happening in the marketplace," said Lahn

Baldrige said the question of retail stores sustainability is most common at the chamber of commerce.

He believes the answer comes with an experience that sitting behind a computer screen can't provide.

"Having things that you can't get online are certain something that will help drive it as well as having the housing right there next to it as well is just a built-in audience," said Baldrige.