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Chambersburg Public Opinion
The long-awaited opening next year of a “first of its kind” Walmart fulfillment center in Antrim Township will strengthen Franklin County’s role as an industrial and logistical hub for the East Coast, local leaders said this month.
The facility from which Walmart will ship online orders to customers in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey is arguably the headliner among several distribution and manufacturing projects underway this year and continuing into 2024.
There are also plans in the works to transform three historic properties into mixed-use neighborhoods containing housing, retail spaces, local service offices and more.
Take a look back at some of the big business moves in 2023 and get a glimpse at what is coming in 2024.
A new kind of Walmart fulfillment center
It’s been three years since county deed records revealed Walmart quietly purchased land in the ever-growing business parks off Interstate 81 Exit 3. A year and a half passed before Walmart announced that the 1.5-million-square-foot building rising at the southern end of the growing industrial complex would be a “high tech next-generation” fulfillment center designed to improve the company’s shipping process and speed up delivery times.
“Our new next generation fulfillment center is a first-of-its-kind for Walmart that will transform the way we ship online orders to customers,” said David Guggina, senior vice president, automation and innovation at Walmart. “Through our automated storage system and patent-pending five step process, we’ll not only provide increased comfort for associates but also double the storage capacity and double the number of customer orders we’re able to fulfill in a day.”
It will serve as a “bookend” to the fulfillment center near Shippensburg, a pairing that gives Walmart the “biggest distribution presence” in Franklin County, Franklin County Development Corp. President Mike Ross told the Public Opinion earlier this year.
The Walmart facility will have more than 1,000 jobs.
They will be full-time positions, including new tech-focused jobs like control technicians, quality audit analysts and flow managers, according to Walmart. As of last week, Walmart’s careers website listed the majority of positions as “future openings” and 46 positions — 40 of them in asset protection — as open now.
Most types of jobs will pay $20 to $26 an hour. Freight handlers will be paid between $19.95 to $23.45 per hour, according to the careers page. Ranging from about $30 to $38 an hour, positions in maintenance, including five that are open now, have the highest wages among listed jobs.
This Walmart fulfillment center, at 1915 Ebbert Spring Road, Greencastle, was one of four such facilities the company announced at the same time. The company identified the proximity to Interstate 81 as the key factor in choosing Antrim Township, putting Walmart on the long list of companies that came to Franklin County for the same reason.
Pressure building: I-81 continues driving development in Franklin County
Amazon to open recycling facility
Not far from Walmart, the nation’s other e-commerce giant has plans to open its own facility in Antrim Township.
An Amazon re:Cycle Reverse Logistics facility is expected to open in April at a 550,000-square-foot building in the Matrix I-81 Logistics Center, according to Franklin County Area Development Corp.’s latest newsletter.
Re:Cycle aims to extend the life of used electronics through reuse, repair and recycling processes. It specializes in handling valuable equipment such as data servers.
Amazon has a goal to be carbon-neutral by 2040, and electronics recycling is a key part of it.
Logistics centers nearing completion
Twin projects were underway this year near the Pennsylvania-Maryland border in Antrim Township and in the community of Marion in Guilford Township.
The first phase of the State Line Logistics Park and the Chambersburg Logistics Park are both approximately one million square feet and hold more than 200 trailer bays. A second building of 420,000 square feet is planned at the State Line park.
Both projects came with infrastructure improvements to make rural roads safe and suitable for commercial truck traffic.
Work is still underway to upgrade Greenmount Road, which will provide the main access to State Line Logistics Park from Mason-Dixon Road. Improvements in safety and traffic flow were made at the I-81 Exit 1 interchange, including the addition of traffic lights at the southbound on and off ramps.
Most visibly, Pa. 914 (Swamp Fox Road), which connects I-81 to U.S. 11 in Marion got a new turning lane.
Both facilities were built with the confidence that tenants could be found. Ross said this week he was not aware of an agreement at either facility. Each facility has a marketing website to attract potential tenants.
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New opportunities at Chambersburg Mall, Scotland school properties
After a long, slow decline, the Chambersburg Mall officially closed at the end of June after more than 40 years in business. Black Rose Antiques was the last tenant. The AMC movie theater shut down in April.
FCADC has been working with the property owner, Namdar Realty Group, to develop a master plan for the 127-acre property. It will likely include a mix of housing, commercial and retail spaces, health care and other services.
“Namdar management is currently reviewing consultant proposals to develop a master plan,” Ross said. “… it is reasonable to expect a consultant selection in the first quarter of 2024.”
A similar fate may await the former Scotland School for Veterans Children.
The 170-acre property was most recently home to Scotland Campus. A prep school once touted as a rising national powerhouse for baseball and basketball, it shut down early this year after defaulting on rent and failing to pay staff.
“While I am not at liberty to discuss the prospect, discussions are active at Scotland and it is possible that an announcement will be forthcoming before year end,” Ross said. “From what I currently know, it would be a very compatible use for the property and surrounding neighbors.”
Greene Township’s zoning prevents warehouses from being built on either property.
What closed a Chambersburg area prep sch How things unraveled at Scotland Campus
Transformation beginning at Chambersburg’s Southgate
A Keystone Health community health center will soon go up at Southgate Shopping Center, the first project in a long-term plan to redevelop the dilapidated shopping center on Chambersburg’s west end into a mixed-use neighborhood.
The three-story health care center will host an array of medical services and support spaces. It is expected to be completed in 2025.
It will likely be the only project for a while, as investors have until July 31 to submit their proposals for the site.
After years of failed discussions about what to do about Southgate, the borough used $4.1 million it received from the American Rescue Plan Act to buy the 14-acre property. A concept for a mixed-use neighborhood was developed with input from stakeholders.
Downtown Chambersburg growing west
The western expansion of Chambersburg’s downtown corridor will kick into gear in 2024 as construction begins, hopefully in the spring, on a 300-seat amphitheater overlooking the Conococheague Creek. It will host a variety of activities and will likely become a key space for the many festivals and other outdoor events that happen in Chambersburg each year.
“That’s the big one and we’re excited for that,” Downtown Chambersburg Inc. President Sam Thrush said.
The move to extend the downtown corridor onto Lincoln Way West follows a resurgence along North and South Main Streets in recent years.
Oasis Cafe (21 N. Main St.), Golden Juniper Boutique (23 N. Main St.), Ruby Beauty Co. (42 S. Main St.), Screaming Bambino Wine (47 D N. Main St.) and Chasing Shadows Skateboards (67 N. Main St.) are among the newest additions downtown, and Thrush said he knows of several others coming in the near future. Vacant storefronts do not last long these days, Thrush said, and residential units have been popular too.
Chambersburg lost a beloved business this fall with the closure of Liquid Art Brewing Co. (formerly Roy-Pitz). The old brick warehouse that was home to the brewery and its connected pub/restaurant for 15 years — and to the Mar-Le-Nie Dance Studio for 30 years before it moved last spring — has attracted interest. Thrush said DCI will work with the building’s owner to fill the property.
Amber South can be reached at email@example.com.