Legend Properties has received approval to begin construction on Phase I of an ambitious mixed-use development in Smithfield Township to be known as Smithfield Gateway.
The developer will begin construction soon on its first building, a 44,000-square-foot medical office building for St. Luke’s University Health Network.
St. Luke’s spokesman Sam Kennedy said the exact use of the building hasn’t been determined yet, but the health network is expecting it to be a mix of medical and administrative offices and will serve as a compliment to St. Luke’s hospital campus in Bartonsville.
Jim DePetris, CEO of Legend Properties, said getting started on the building is a major milestone in creating what he called a “mammoth, moving project that has been on the books for many years.”
DePetris said a medical office building is a great start to a 120-acre, 500,000-square-foot development that will eventually have retail, residential and corporate office components.
“We envision a community that’s live, work, play and we’re big enough to accommodate that,” DePetris said. “We want a place where people can go to work, live, eat at restaurants and maybe even stay at a hotel.”
The medical office is expected to be complete by summer 2022, but the entire project should take about five years, he said.
With a mix of around 240 residential units including age-restricted, 55+ housing and traditional one- and two-bedroom apartments, the development is likely to have a significant impact on the township, which has a population of around 7,500. That, coupled with the jobs created and customers of planned shops and restaurants will make the area a major hub for the township.
Jacob Pride, chairman of the board of supervisors, said the increase in population and visitors raised obvious concerns about traffic in the Route 209 corridor, with the project being located at what is already the busiest intersection in the area. But road work Legend has already begun on the site should actually lessen traffic congestion in the area and dramatically and improve safety. The work includes converting that section of roadway into five lanes and adding traffic signals synced to other signals in the area.
He said the township, overall, is rather excited about the prospects the Gateway will bring to the community.
“Probably one of the best features is that it will bring more earned income revenue from the people living and working there and with the additional property tax coming in it will reduce the tax burden on homeowners,” he said.
Pride is enthusiastic about the project and the number of jobs it will be creating in the township. A similar development Legend built in nearby Bartonsville had a strong economic impact, bringing in major retailers and spurring development in the area surrounding the project.
Smithfield Gateway is already drawing the interest of nearby businesses, he said. The nearby Dunkin’ is planning to relocate to the property and will be one of the first retail tenants of the development.
With the plans the township has seen so far, this development should be less oriented towards big box stores, instead attracting smaller local specialty retailers that offer a more interesting variety.
“In general the project is consistent with our zoning reform which fosters mixed-use development in general,” Pride said.
For DePetris, getting started on Phase I of the project is the reward for years of work. He said the company has been working on getting the right project for the site for more than six years and he expects to be a big draw to the region.
With a pool and community rooms, he expects there to be strong demand for the residential units, noting that there has been a stronger demand than inventory for housing in that part of Monroe County because of its proximity to both open space and entertainment. The fact that the apartments overlook the Delaware Water Gap is also a plus.
“The views will be spectacular,” DePetris said.
Mixing retail and workspace
As for the retail, he can’t get into specifics and notes they are still seeking tenants, but he would like to see a mix of retail and restaurants from fancier dinner venues to coffee and pizza shops. He would also like to see a winery locate there to give the residents a wide range of entertainment options.
Work on that phase of the project should start during the first quarter of next year.
For the office space he is hoping to lure a few corporations to the area that can make use of the project’s office buildings as a headquarters to perhaps avoid higher taxes from across the border in New Jersey, he said.
He noted that the entire development will be joined by a loop road that connects the different sections to the Route 209 corridor making the retail, residential and office space easily accessible to each other and to commuters.
He said he chose the name Smithfield Gateway because he expects the large-scale development will serve as a gateway to the township and its community.
“We want to make a major impression in the area,” DePetris said.o