Answering questions concerning Logan Town Centre

For years, when driving on I-99, the sign has been there, ‘Coming soon, Logan Town Centre’. Developer Greg Morris, one of 25 local partners for the $100 million complex hopes to break ground at the end of March 2003 and have the complex open in Spring of 2004.
Logan Town Centre will bring 4,000 new retail jobs when it is opened and 2,000 construction jobs to build it.
“The concept of the Town Centre is an open-air shopping center,” said Morris. “There will be a minimum of two large nationally known anchor tenants, multiple junior anchors, small shop tenants and restaurants. We hope shoppers will be attracted to the Town Centre because of the convenience factor and the wide variety of products and services that will be offered.”
Over 3,000 jobs have been lost over the past 24 months in Blair County by closings or layoffs at Westvaco, Norfolk Southern, Ames, Phar-Mor and the Family Toy Warehouse. With the completion of this project, many of those laid off will have jobs.
Anchoring the Logan Town Centre will be Boscov’s Department store, Home Depot and Barnes and Noble Bookstore.
There have been many questions about the project and many were aired during a public hearing held by the Pennsylvania Department of Enviornmental Protection Thursday night at the Jaffa Mosque in Altoona.
“I feel positive about the project,” said Richard Bowen, vice president for development of Morris Management. “This is the public comment period. One thing you have to remember is when people want a project they don’t say very much. They figure you are going to do it. People who don’t want the project are probably the most verbal. Everybody knows this. DEP knows this. Any regulatory agency knows this. When you get this vocal outcry, what you have to do is decipher what they are saying. You can pick up bullet points about what they are saying is wrong with the project. We’ve already addressed the issues that were stated on Thursday night. There are no new issues. They try to put little needles in your balloons saying there are trout in the stream, when there are no trout in the stream. They are allowed to say anything they want.”
To make the project as environmentally sound as possible, the 17th Street Logan Town Limited Partnership has done the studies to take care of the environment.
“We’ve spent $2 million just on the investigation of the Enviornmental issues,” said Bowen. “We spent $22 million to date on this project. It is a $100 million project. We feel very strong about the project. It is people of this area who have funded this project. It is private money. It is for the community. We are trying to keep people at home.”
Some of the things that have been said about this project have been rebuked by the Partnership.
For example, fishing opportunities will be negatively impacted.
According to Morris Management, Brush Run offers no fishing opportunities in the area that would be impacted by the project. The unnamed tributaries to Brush Run located within the project area have a width of three feet and an average depth of 2.5 inches for most of the length of the project. Water flows, in the area of unnamed tributaries, are sensitive to heavy storms and drought conditions. In the area of the development, a person can walk across their banks. During the many periods of little to no rainfall, most of these unnamed tributaries are dry thus making fishing unlikely to occur in these streams.
The Daily Herald checked with an independent area fishing expert and he concurred with the developer’s conclusion.
Another charge against the project is that job opportunities will be minimum wage jobs.
“We are expecting 4,000 jobs at an average salary of $25,000,” said Morris. “That is $100 million annually in the economy. When the people say we are bringing in minimum wage jobs, they are insulting every person who works on Pleasant Valley Boulevard. We believe that with our project, the Logan valley Mall, the Target shopping center and the Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club complex, we can make this the most complete retail area between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
“We have done studies for the economic spin off of Logan Town Centre,” said Morris. “Shoppers are projected to travel to Altoona from an estimated 60-mile radius. The Altoona area will be known as the largest retail shopping area in all of Central Pennsylvania. “
While working on the Logan Town Centre, Morris Management is also doing other projects in the area.
The Gingerbread Man in Altoona will be soon be converting into a CVS Pharmacy and a restaurant called Uno Pizzeria.
“It took us three years to put that deal together,” said Morris. “These deals take time. This area isn’t the easiest sell, but we are looking forward to the change.”
Upon completion of the project, Logan Town Center will provide Logan Township with $150,500 of property taxes, the Altoona School District would receive $553,400 and Blair County would benefit from $296,100 per year. That is an annual tax base increase of $1 million. Based on the projections on the land cost and project development and construction costs, over a 10-year period, there is $10 million in new tax money for the area.
Some of the people who have announced opposition to the project are Steve Hoffman from Audubon Pennsylvania, Mark Hersh of the Raymond Proffitt Foundation, Mark Henry of the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, Toby Richardson of the Little Juniata Chapter of the Federation of Flyfishermen and Mindy Wilkins of Penn State Eco Action. Many of these same professionals were recruited to oppose the completion of Interstate 99 from Bald Eagle to State College.
In Monday’s Daily Herald there will be a look at the impact on Brush Mountain, the wetlands, the residents of the area and the people who are supporting the project.

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