After years of planning, Gettysburg’s Lincoln Commons shopping center opens to the community
By Elena Bittinger
Located at the intersection of U.S. Route 15 and P.A. Route 30, Gettysburg will experience a new, diverse expansion, featuring Taco Bell, Panera Bread, CVS Pharmacy, a bank, and other retail and service providers. The Lincoln Commons shopping center is finally here.
Robin Fitzpatrick, president of Adams Economic Alliance, says there’s approximately 90 acres of land under development for auction, and it has been so for years. She says, “In the world of development, businesses have to be ready. It’s gotta work in their business model, and maybe Gettysburg needed to have more people in it. Depending on whose statistics you’re looking at, we get 4 million extra people here every year.”
In 2014, Atapco Properties purchased 10.2 acres of that land, with David Lazas as lead developer. Atapco develops sustainable, green buildings, tailoring each project to its communities’ needs and wishes, which is important in preserving Gettysburg’s historical heritage.
This long-awaited project, however, sustained some heavy pitfalls in the beginning. In 2014 and 2015, the project, known then as Gettysburg Crossings, came to an abrupt halt due to an anchor store’s pullout, along with other financial and zoning ordinance concerns.
Fitzpatrick says Atapco had difficulties obtaining Tax Incrementing Financing (TIF), funds required for community improvements involving roads, sewer, water, utilities, and more. She says, “Delta Development Group obtained for them a $1.3-million grant from the commonwealth.” But according to Straban Township’s Planning Commission hearing in January of 2014, Teresa K. Sparacino, representing Delta Development, explained that Atapco would need at least $6 million for all improvements based on a Traffic Impact Study (TIS) made in 2011. She presented figures indicating that road improvements could exceed $5 million and the use of a functioning water system could exceed $1 million. Unfortunately, TIF funds were denied after two additional voting meetings stating that the report used wasn’t current, which nullified the request.
The zoning challenges, noted in the Planning Commission hearings, Atapco faced was Hampton Inn’s entrance and exit ways, signage for the shopping center—amending it to appropriate size—right of way acquisition, and reposition of the railroad at Route 30 and Hunterstown Road so a traffic light could be installed. These concerns remained at a standstill when development ceased from both the developer and the anchoring store.
In late 2015/early 2016, the Lincoln Commons, a smaller project, was proposed and accepted without the presence of an anchor store. With no anchor store, it solved some of the concerns Atapco encountered and created a few new ones, along with the original ones outstanding. Transportation road improvement finances became more accessible, but communications on parking, landscape divider strips, storm water management, and more introduced new concerns for consideration, which many, not all, have been resolved by 2018.
Atapco has managed the many pitfalls delivered to them, but have the residents accepted them, too?
“Well, people are not in love with development in this historic community,” says Fitzpatrick. “However, people need services, and they need to eat lunch when they are at work. And they need to go through the drive-thru to pick up their meds on their way home.”
At Gettysburg Frame Shop & Gallery, Paul Selmer thought there wouldn’t be a negative impact on the community. In fact, he says, “It’ll open up more things. I’ve already been to Taco Bell twice, and I liked it.” He heard there was a horrendous time wait, which he experienced. It was a “three-minute per car wait, not bad. We all have been waiting for 10 years for Taco Bell.”
Supervisor of One Lincoln Food & Spirits Andrew Laughlin shared similar thoughts. “I think it’s great. It’s expanding the town a little bit more. It’s providing more employment opportunities, which is huge, especially for the younger population in this area. And it just gives a little more of variety.”
Antique Center of Gettysburg’s Colleen Stevens says, “I think it’s probably needed. The shops and the Taco Bell, and the Panera Bread. I hate to see Gettysburg built up, and I’m really against really tall buildings going in, but I will say this. That area is already so developed, and everybody expects that area to be where you have your shopping. So, I don’t have a problem with it being there at all. I think it’s needed.”
She also visited Taco Bell, and it wasn’t what she expected. “I thought it was a little smaller than it maybe could be. I really think it could be a little larger for the amount of people they are going to get in the seasons, but I’m glad it’s there.”
She also thinks it may help keep people in Gettysburg instead of driving to Hanover or Chambersburg.
As for keeping people in Gettysburg, Emily Warren of A Lit’le Irish, Too, expressed that before this shopping center, she would wait to visit her father in Chambersburg for her guilty pleasures. “I’m really waiting for the Panera Bread to open. I’m all about Panera Bread.”
“We fully need better parking garage signs, because they keep jacking prices up on meters, and that’s the only thing hurting us right now, is people aren’t staying as long for parking. That’s what’s hurting small businesses,” which could drive business away.
She explained though, “The people who want to see the battlefield and shop at the local shops aren’t going to go there. That will be where your locals actually go, or the people who are heading off to go to get food and getting right back on the road. This is still the heart of the tourist district. People are still going to go to Mr. G’s Ice Cream.”
Fitzpatrick adds, “This is one example of a lot of development that is occurring right now in this geographic area, specifically Straban Township, and it is the logical and planned place for it to go.”
It appears the residents agree, too.
Editor’s Note: We were unable to reach David Lazas or Atapco Properties.