2006-03-25 / Front Page

Another Roadblock Hurdled

Emporium Borough Council Agrees To Vacate Alley For Rite Aid Development

Another roadblock was cleared for the construction of a Rite Aid pharmacy and retail store on property owned by Jack Solveson that was the former site of Jubilee Foods in Emporium.

Borough Council members on Monday agreed to vacate a portion of the alley between Portage and Spring streets. The move will free up additional room for parking and allow for easier truck access to the new store on East Allegany Avenue. The ordinance - still subject to Council review and public comment - does not take effect until May 1.

Council's action would move the alley about 42 feet to the west. Atwell-Hicks Development Company had asked that the alley be relocated. A neighboring property owner, Rick Olivett, who also owns and operates the local Olivett's Shurfine Food Mart, said he wants to be certain the changes don't affect access to his property. He said a fence on the border would prevent trucks servicing the Rite Aid from encroaching on his property.

Joel Caldwell, owner of the Emporium Pharmacy and the Subway Restaurant, said he believed Council should be encouraging commercial development in the downtown area, rather than locations such as East Allegany Avenue. He cited advantages of a compact business district, including handicapped accessibility, more effective law enforcement and a more vibrant downtown area for passersby and potential new businesses.

Additionally, Caldwell pointed out, customers stopping at one downtown business are likely to patronize other businesses in the same section.

Borough Manager Rob Aversa and Council President Jim Slusarick assured Caldwell that officials remain committed to a long-term downtown revitalization effort.

Aversa said that moving the alley wasn't as critical to Rite Aid's proposed development as many people believed it to be.

"If council had said 'no,' I don't think Rite Aid would have abandoned the project," he told the Endeavor. "Rite Aid is obviously intent on having a location in Cameron County. They could easily decide to move somewhere into Shippen Township or elsewhere. That's tax monies Emporium Borough would lose."

Aversa went on to explain that Rite Aid would not be the first chain store to locate in Emporium Borough, citing Burger King, Subway and the Sheetz Convenience store.

"That's the kind of development that's taking place (in rural towns), Aversa explained.

Additional details about the Rite Aid project emerged at Monday's meeting as well. The 11,000-square-foot complex will face Allegany Avenue between Portage and Spring streets. It will have 54 parking spaces (three for handicapped accessibility), a drive-through window for prescription

service, landscaping and lighting.

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