The vacant corner of Manheim Pike and Plaza Boulevard, an eyesore for roughly 15 years, might finally be redeveloped into something that motorists are a little happier to see.

A New Jersey company wants to build a 7-Eleven convenience store there, according to its filing with Manheim Township, in a project costing about $5 million.

Highview Commercial LLC, a regional real estate developer based in Red Bank, New Jersey, won approval on Wednesday of four zoning variances that it had requested in order to redevelop the property, once the site of Tom’s Mobil and a Fulton Bank branch.

Manheim Township zoners permitted the store to have 42 parking spaces, 20 fewer than the township zoning ordinance requires, and a 17.6-foot-tall canopy over its gas pumps, 7.6 feet higher than the ordinance allows.

The zoners also allowed Highview Commercial to make a strip of greenery and a perimeter buffer shallower on the south side of the property than required, because the parcel is narrow.

“This project will have a big impact on the community,” said David Wood, chairman of the zoning board, following the 4-0 vote. “We’re glad to have it.”

The new 7-Eleven will be the company’s latest prototype, with a new fast-food lineup (including chicken and tacos), a new assortment of fresh-brewed coffee and a “beer cave,” said Highview Commercial’s Dave Gunia on Thursday.

Highview Commercial hopes to break ground on the store in the spring, with a fall 2021 opening, creating up to 20 part-time and full-time jobs, said Gunia, vice president of development. The store will operate around the clock.

Steps before construction

But first, before construction can start, Highview Commercial has a number of procedural steps to fulfill.

Its next major task will be to submit a land development plan for the venture to the township for approval. The plan will give a detailed description of the work to be done to redevelop the site. Several state approvals will be needed too.

Highview Commercial wants to construct a 5,700-square-foot store on the 2.2-acre property, which is zoned B-4, its zoning application says. B-4, a business designation, allows convenience stores of up to 10,000 square feet. The store will include eight multi-product fuel dispensers.

At the zoning meeting, Wood noted that size of 7-Eleven’s proposed store is smaller than what other convenience store operators have wanted to build recently.

Though Wood did not specify those other proposals, one that prompted a public outcry was Rutter’s proposal to construct an oversized convenience store at the former Stauffers of Kissel Hill store at 1850 Oregon Pike and the former Roseville Tavern next door.

That Oregon Pike site’s B-2 zoning allows convenience stores of up to 4,000 square feet. But Rutter’s initially asked to build a 9,300-square-foot store with a truck stop, which the zoners rejected in December. Then it asked to build a 7,600-square-foot store without the truck stop, which the zoners turned down in June. After the second rejection, Rutter’s punted on the project. The two properties have been listed for sale.

New convenience stores in the area developed by other chains often are 5,000 to 6,000 square feet, LNP | LancasterOnline records show.

Gunia indicated that 7-Eleven simply doesn’t need a store as big as Rutter’s sought, in part because 7-Eleven does not offer inside seating. The chain, he added, “is staying true to its grab-and-go (business) model. … It’s two-to-three minutes (in the store) per customer.”

With its business model and store size, the 7-Eleven store will have ample parking with the 42 spaces, Highview Commercial consultant Justin Auciello said to the zoners. A 7-Eleven of the size contemplated on Manheim Pike normally would have only 29 spaces, he said. Turkey Hill and Sheetz stores of roughly that size in the township have 23 to 33 spaces, Auciello added.

Project costs detailed

Highview Commercial has agreed to buy the parcel from Brookfield Properties, owner of Park City shopping center, a short distance south on Plaza Boulevard, the zoning filing says. A price was not disclosed. The site, with high visibility and easy access from two heavily traveled roads, has been listed for sale for $1.45 million, according to listing agent Bob Wolf of NAI Commercial Partners.

Highview Commercial will spend another $3.0 million to construct the convenience store, the company says in its filing. There will be additional expenses for fixtures, equipment, fees for professional services and other items, taking the total cost to about $5.0 million, Gunia said.

While Dallas-based 7-Eleven is the nation’s largest convenience store chain, with more than 9,000 stores, it has had a small and occasional presence in Lancaster County, formerly operating stores on West James Street, East Chestnut Street, South Duke Street, President Avenue and Lincoln Highway East over the past four decades.

For now, though, 7-Eleven only has one store in the county. It’s in the Bowmansville service plaza of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. However, it has proposed a second county store, on Route 72 in Rapho Township near the Lancaster/Lebanon interchange of the turnpike, LNP | LancasterOnline reported in June.

The site of the third store, in Manheim Township, has been long vacant. The former Tom’s Mobil gas station and mini-mart at 1450 Manheim Pike closed in roughly 2005, based on the dates of state Department of Environmental Protection inspections of its underground fuel tanks and their removal. The Fulton branch next door at 1285 Plaza Blvd. closed in 2011, according to a bank spokesman.

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