Residents — as well as reporters — pay the most attention to big, new shopping centers with big, glamorous anchors.

But there’s also a place in the market for smaller centers and retailers.

And it’s the niche that Lime Spring Square intends to help fill, in a project that one industry spokesman calls “fairly unusual” and “intriguing.”

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Oak Tree Development Group, the developer of the 206 Rohrerstown Road venture, calls that slice of the market “convenience services.”

“We’ll have a local shopping experience here where people can get the things they need, then go back to work or go home,” said Mike O’Brien, president of Oak Tree Development.

Lancaster-based Oak Tree Development said construction of the East Hempfield Township center began last week. The first buildings will open by year-end and the remainder by year-end 2018.

The pricetag: $30 million, plus $4 million for the center’s share of the cost of traffic improvements and restoring the floodplain of Brubaker Run, which winds through the shopping center.

Encompassing 126,000 square feet, Lime Spring Square is being constructed between Columbia Avenue and Marietta Avenue, opposite Regency Square.

It’s next to Lime Spring Farm, where residential, light industrial and commercial buildings are being developed. Oak Tree Development is handling that project too.

Together, Lime Spring Farm and Lime Spring Square are transforming two farms totaling 199 acres that stretch from Rohrerstown Road to Marietta Avenue.

All told, the site eventually will have 1.1 million square feet of buildings, nearly as much as Park City Center (1.4 million square feet).

New names for Lancaster

At Lime Spring Square, merchants who have finalized or nearly finalized leases include five newcomers to Lancaster County, said O’Brien.

Those with signed leases are: Royal Farms, a Baltimore-based convenience store chain; Firehouse Subs, a chain based in Jacksonville, Florida; and MOD Pizza, a chain based in Bellevue, Washington.

Metro Diner, a chain that’s also based in Jacksonville, has signed a letter of intent. Mavis Discount Tire, a chain based in Millwood, New York, is in final negotiations on a lease.

Ed Stronski, marketing manager for Royal Farms, explained the thinking behind his company’s arrival in Lancaster County:

“This is an area that is adjacent to regions that we already serve and we have received such a warm welcome as we’ve expanded that we’ve decided to expand a bit further so that we can serve other communities more conveniently.”

The Lime Spring Square store will employ about 40 people.

A Mavis Discount Tire spokesman did not respond to a request for comment. A Metro Diner spokesman declined comment.

Signed tenants that already have Lancaster locations are Verizon Wireless, Panera Bread, Citadel Federal Credit Union and Burger King. Starbucks, Fuddruckers and Chipotle have inked letters of intent.

O’Brien said Lime Spring Square is in negotiations with a hair salon and an Asian restaurant as well.

When completed, the center will have 13 buildings, most of them small, and about 25 tenants.

The center’s look will be similar to the recently opened Overlook Town Center on Fruitville Pike, which includes Tom + Chee.

Lime Spring Square’s mix of tenants “is the kind of thing that ties into your normal day-to-day travels. That’s what the center’s built for,” said O’Brien.

O’Brien envisions local residents coming in for merchandise or a meal while they’re in the area to patronize other businesses in the Rohrerstown Road corridor.

Or customers might stop and shop at Lime Spring Square while commuting to or from work, or during their lunch break, he said.

Tapping into trends

Jeff Lenard, vice president of strategic industry initiatives for the National Association of Convenience Stores, likes Lime Spring Square’s concept.

“It hits all the right notes” by addressing current trends in retailing and in consumer preference, he said.

Most notably, “small format is now big,” while many big-store merchants — from J.C. Penney to Kmart to Sears — are struggling, noted Lenard. Also popular is fast, easy shopping.

“The retail channels that are best positioned now are the ones that offer convenience. That includes the internet,” said Lenard.

To make it easier for motorists to go to, from and through Lime Spring Square and adjoining Lime Spring Farm, Oak Tree Development is funding a raft of traffic-improvement efforts.

Work will begin in “the next couple of weeks,” and is scheduled to be completed by Oct. 31, said O’Brien. All will be done at night, beginning at 8 p.m., to minimize the impact on motorists.

For drivers southbound on Rohrerstown Road, Oak Tree Development will add right turn lanes for going westbound on Noll Drive and Embassy Drive, which will be extended to Running Pump Road.

When Oak Tree Development completes the Embassy Drive extension, the road will be given to the township, said O’Brien.

For drivers headed northbound on Rohrerstown Road and wanting to turn left onto Noll Drive or Embassy Drive, center turn lanes will be added and left turn arrows will be added to the intersection’s traffic lights.

Drivers going east on Noll Drive or Embassy Drive, and wanting to turn left onto Rohrerstown Road, will get a hand from left-turn arrows on traffic signals there.

Running Pump Road will get improvements too, including the conversion of the intersection with Noll Drive into a traffic circle.

While construction progresses for Lime Spring Square, the adjoining Lime Spring Farm continues to be developed too.

Completed are a 60,000-square-foot building for Lancaster Farm Fresh, a local and organic food cooperative, and a 120,000-square-foot distribution center for Quality Bicycle Products.

Underway is Homestead Village’s Farmstead, a $28 million project that will add 98 carriage homes, constructed as duplexes, for residents ages 62 and up.

The first 26 are completed or under construction, said Homestead Village President Douglas Motter.

Also underway is a $3 million child care center being developed by U-Gro Learning Centre. A July completion is set, creating more than 30 jobs and providing care for 148 children ages 6 weeks to 8 years old.

More development will come soon.

By the end of the month, construction is set to begin on the 44-unit Apartments at Lime Spring Farm. RPI Co., a Malvern-based apartment developer and manager, will be the general partner for this venture; Oak Tree Development will be an owner too.

The market-rate units will come in one-, two- and three-bedroom configurations. They will be available for occupancy starting in late summer or early fall. Twenty garages will be available too, for an extra fee.

Sometime next year, Oak Tree Development will begin constructing another 140 units of housing, either market-rate apartments or townhomes for sale.

The remainder of the site’s development will occur when there’s sufficient demand, according to O’Brien. That will involve 500,000 square feet of light industrial and commercial space.