Airport: Seeking growth HIA aims to land development nearby Authority seeks gas stations, hotel, restaurants near the complex to serve customers
"The authority has heard from people who said they wish there was a hotel or a nice restaurant close to the airport. That makes sense, when you think about the kinds of things you find close to most major airports." , BY P.J. REILLY, Staff Writer
Much has been done over the past decade to improve and increase the facilities and amenities at Harrisburg International Airport.
Now the Susquehanna Area Regional Airport Authority has set its sights on doing the same thing just outside the airport complex 10 miles north of Elizabethtown.
The authority is looking for a developer to turn a 23-acre parcel of land it owns next to the airport into a commercial center, featuring a hotel, a restaurant, a gas station and other facilities.
"We welcome it with open arms," said Lower Swatara Township Commissioner William Leonard Jr.
"It's good for us, good for the airport and good for the visitors to our township."
There currently are no hotels, restaurants or gas stations in the immediate area of Harrisburg International Airport, according to Brenda Wick, Lower Swatara's planning and zoning director.
"We definitely want more business in the township, and, other than the airport, that is a fairly rural area," she said. "There isn't even a gas station in that corridor, until you travel down Route 230 to Highspire."
The property the authority has eyed for development is bounded by Route 230 to the south, Rosedale Avenue to the east and north and Meade Avenue to the west.
The airport is south of Route 230.
Currently, the undeveloped property zoned "highway commercial" is used as a parking lot for large trucks, according to Larry Lawyer, the authority's engineer.
A Sheetz gas station and store at the intersection of Meade Avenue and Route 230 already is in the land-development phase.
Construction could begin this summer, Lawyer said.
For the rest of the tract, the authority is looking for a developer who can bring to life the authority's vision.
Lawyer said the authority wants a 70- to 100-room hotel, a restaurant, a fast-food establishment, a bank and four or five other retail stores on the property.
It would be up to the developer "to use his contacts in the industry to fill those slots," Lawyer said.
He did not have an estimate for the total cost of the development project.
Developers have until March 1 to submit their qualifications to the authority for consideration.
Lawyer said he expects the authority to choose a developer before the end of March.
There is no time frame for the development to be completed.
Lawyer said he would expect the developer to work on one piece of the project at a time.
"It might take several years before it's completely built out," he said.
According to Lawyer, the roster of businesses the authority wants to see in the new commercial center would fill needs that have been identified by travelers.
"The authority has heard from people who said they wish there was a hotel or a nice restaurant close to the airport," he said. "That makes sense, when you think about the kinds of things you find close to most major airports."
As Harrisburg International Airport has grown, offering more flights to more destinations, it has drawn travelers from farther away, according to Rick Dunlap, director of communications for the Hershey-Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau.
Having a hotel close to the airport is likely to be a great convenience for people traveling long distances to fly out of Harrisburg, he said.
"If you're coming from Williamsport for an early morning flight, it will be nice to have a hotel right there where you can stay the night before," Dunlap said.
Leonard said he would also expect the center to serve students and others traveling to and from Penn State University's Harrisburg campus, located less than a mile to the east.
"The opportunity is there to take advantage of the growth in the airport and the growth in Penn State Harrisburg," he said. "And a development like this will help ease the burden on our residential taxpayers."
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