Emerging Transportation Corridors – A Link to Development in Southwestern PA

It is well known to most in real estate development that “transportation infrastructure” is a key factor to the location of a real estate development project. The successful operation and eventual rising valuation of the project are also heavily impacted by access to the site. Real estate development in Southwestern Pennsylvania is no exception and travel to and from development sites becomes more challenging by the inherent geographical and topographical challenges we find in our region. With significant economic expansion looming in Southwestern Pennsylvania, the transportation infrastructure that serves the Pittsburgh region is at a crossroads.

With the passing of Act 89 in 2013, the entire state of Pennsylvania received a significant shot in the arm in the struggle to maintain our bridge and roadway infrastructure. The Commonwealth made a significant decision that our transportation infrastructure was important to our future even at an increased cost. Much remains to be done to facilitate all forms of transportation in Southwestern Pennsylvania and our Commonwealth. To reach this region’s full economic potential, it will become important to identifying how best to utilize the dollars earmarked for transportation improvements in our region.

In 2014 the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission (SPC) was given just such a directive to evaluate the interstate corridors serving the industrial manufacturing industry.  This “Emerging Industries Corridor’s” study is the first of its kind for our region and identifies available real estate properties along existing interstate corridors desirable to outside industry seeking sites in our region.

Understanding where our viable development assets are located and then placing an emphasis on the transportation corridor into these locations has economic significance to the region. As noted in the study “Maintaining the existing transportation assets in the corridor is of equal importance to the mobility of the corridor.  Maintaining reliable and predictable mobility standards through effective maintenance and operational improvements is key to keeping the corridor economically competitive on a global scale.”

The study itself will help identify and evaluate industrial sites of 50 acres or more along the interstate corridors from Lawrence County, Pennsylvania to Washington, Pennsylvania and east to the Monongahela River. The sites the study is looking to identify would ideally have some component of a brownfield site or distressed environmental condition created by previous development. They would be large enough to accommodate significant acreage requirements by groups evaluating the region for heavy industrial use. They would also need to have access to the river, rail lines and there must be ample roadway access to the property.

At this point the study has been able to identify about 25 sites that range from 300 acres to the aforementioned 50 acres. “It is important to look at the criteria for selection of these sites as much as where these sites are located”, states Lew Villotti of the SPC. Lew is heading up the study at the SPC. He indicates that “this initial study is only a snap shot of the current inventory of the available real estate and that this type of list will always be in-flux”.

 Aided by the work of several NAIOP members and other industry professionals, the study will be a tremendous asset to marketing our region and its real estate. The study is anticipated to be completed by the end of summer and will be used as a guide by those that market our region including the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance. More importantly, it will help identify any short comings that might restrict access to one of the scarcest resources in Southwestern Pennsylvania: PAD READY REAL ESTATE!

Written by: Chic Noll, Director of Business Development, Desmone Architects

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