Tuesday, February 27, 2007

McCrackin Update...

Ahhh.... the tangled webs we weave, especially when it comes to rumors in the North Hills.

Recently, this Tattler received a tip that McCrackin Ford, which closed earlier this month, sold out to Shults Ford of Wexford who in turn sold the property to Wal-Mart.

As it turns out, this rumor is not exactly true but you readers were on the right track.

Last Friday, I received a very helpful email from a reader who forwarded a letter from Shults Ford to me. Richard Bazzy, owner of Shults, said:

As you may already know, MCrackin Ford has closed, and their dealership has been consolidated with our 2 Shults Ford stores in the North Hills-Wexford and Harmarville. As the owner of Shults Ford, I would like to welcome all past and present McCrackin customers to the Shults Ford Family !

He went onto write:

In anticipation of the McCrackin Ford consolidation, we have increased our shop capacity, our number of personnel, and our new and used car inventories! For example, we bought 200 additional new vehicles from McCrackin Ford to ensure we have what you want-when you want it. We have added parts, mechanical lifts and technicians.

So as you can see, Shults purchased a load of cars from McCrackin's inventory but did not buy their plot of land along McKnight Road. The Ford Motor Company has already stated that they do not plan to reopen the car dealership.

Wal-Mart also contends that they do not plan to purchase McCrackin Ford.

This leaves a large parcel of land located right next to Wal-Mart's properties including the former Sam's Club and Chi Chi's Restaurant. Only time will tell if the superstore chain will purchase the Ford dealership or if another merchant will be coming into Ross Township.

As always, if you have any tips email this Tattler at: sirfuller@hotmail.com

Working to keep you posted...

Friday, February 23, 2007

McCrackin Ford Closes...

McCrackin Ford, a longtime car dealership along McKnight Road, closed its doors last Thursday. This closure sparked rumors that Wal-Mart was going to purchase the site in addition to the already acquired Chi-Chi's and Sam's Club locations.

This Tattler has been told by Wal-Mart officials that no additional properties are planned to be purchased and no development plans are on the table.

In a statement from McCrackin:

The dealership closed its doors for business as usual last week, but will maintain operations to transition the business in an orderly manner.

Ford Motor Company will not reopen the McCrackin location and all of McCrackin Ford's customers will be contacted and referred to the Ford Dealership that is most convenient for service and all of their automotive.

This Tattler recently heard that McCrackin sold out to Schultz Ford, but it seems that may not be in the works since Ford does not plan to re-open the location. This is a developing story and I'm sure more information will come out of the woodwork in the coming weeks.

Wal-Mart officials still contend they do not plan to purchase the property. But, it also remains unclear as to why the dealership closed after 52 years of business.

If anyone has any thoughts, email: sirfuller@hotmail.com.

Working to keep you posted...

Altmire May Have Competition...

Rumor has it lately that Jason Almire (D-4), who defeated Melissa Hart last year for her U.S. Congress seat, will have some competition if he runs for re-election in 2008.

Several republican names have been floating around recently and at this point, only one potential candidate has taken the first step to jumping in the race.

From the Trib:

Former Allegheny County Councilman Ron Francis of Ben Avon has filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to begin fundraising efforts to capture the seat Altmire won from Republican Melissa Hart in November, CQPolitics.com reported last week.

Francis was a former county council member who chose not to seek re-election a few years back. This Tattler is still gathering information on him.

Other names have been discussed lately including a former gubernatorial candidate and current state representative.

Lynn Swann, who ran unsuccessfully for governor last year, has not ruled out a bid for the seat. State Rep. Mike Turzai, who ran for the seat in 1998 and lost to former U.S. Rep. Ron Klink of Murrysville, also has been mentioned as a possible candidate.

Turzai has been representing northern Allegheny County communities for several years in the state house. He has prior political experience in addition to his current position. This can only make this Tattler think that he would be a formidable candidate for the U.S. Congress seat.

Swann, on the other hand, lacks political experience but offers various qualities that could help him gain the GOP nomination including name recognition and his commitment to the community.

This Tattler thinks there may be quite a few republican candidates on the primary ballot in 2008.

One additional local leader that comes to mind (but is not in the rumors) is State Sen. Jane Orie. She has been in the position for several years and has previous political experience, however it's unclear if she's interested in the position.

At this point, It would be hard to suggest one candidate over another. There is still less than two years before the next election and it's interesting to take a glimpse at the infancy of the political race.

If I hear anything else, I'll let you know.

Working to keep you posted...

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Kuhn's May Not be Vacant for Long...

I've recently learned that there is someone interested in the former location of Kuhn's Market along McKnight Road in Northland Shopping Center. This Tattler was told that plans are in the works but since negotiations have not yet been completed for the property, everyone is tight lipped.

I'm not quite sure what could even work in the location. This Tattler highly doubts that another grocery store is interested with Kuhn's now located at North Hills Village Mall. However, it could possibly work as a restaurant because there is ample parking.

Any ideas? Let this Tattler know: sirfuller@hotmail.com

Working to keep you posted...

Wal-Mart Rumors Running Rampant...

Ever since Wal-Mart purchased the location of the former Chi-Chi's Restaurant along McKnight Road about a month ago it certainly got the rumor mills rolling.

Earlier last weekend this Tattler heard from one of my faithful readers:

"Rumor has it that Wal-Mart has bought more than just Chi Chi's along McKnight Road.

Shultz Ford Bought out McCrackin Ford, who in turn sold the property to Wal-Mart. (I'm looking into this one)

In addition to McCrackin's property, I have also heard that they have purchased property at 5000 McKnight Road. This is the mid-rise office building across the street from Chi Chi's.

In addition to that, they are trying to buy the bank just north of 5000 McKnight, nearest the southern entrance to Ross Park Mall.

Perhaps a Wal-Mart overpass from northbound McKnight Road? Who Knows. Nonetheless, if a multi-million dollar property spending spree doesn't predict development, I don't know what does."

Just two days letter, I got another comment from a different reader in the inbox:

"So Sam's Club leaves, McCrackin sell out, leaving a huge chunk of land - Chi Chi's is sold, mark my words - Wal-Mart is coming!"

After receiving the emails, this Tattler had to confirm if any of the rumors are true (at least at this point). Jim Davis, Wal-Mart's public affairs senior manager, said:

"No additional property has been acquired. I am unsure of any "interest" in properties across the street. If the property is available for purchase, our broker may have inquired as to price, etc - but there is no plan to acquire additional adjacent properties."

So at this point all of the rumors seem to be just that - rumor. This Tattler would stress that all you readers keep an eye on that area of McKnight Road because I doubt Wal-Mart is just holding onto the property without any development plans in mind.

If you here any other rumors ... let this Tattler know: sirfuller@hotmail.com

Working to keep you posted...

Friday, February 16, 2007

More Tattlers needed...

After a few weeks of giving you information about the North Hills, this blog has been developing quite nicely. However, everything can be improved in some way and I've come up with an idea.

This Tattler is in need of some correspondents to contribute to this blog. I think it would only help to provide more information about the issues facing the North Hills. If you're not politically savvy - it doesn't matter because there is much more to talk about in the North Hills.

My vision is for this blog to become a gathering place for discussions on a variety of issues including current events, education, politics, religion, entertainment and anything else that is pertinent to the North Hills.

If you're interested in occasionally submitting a blog feel free to contact this Tattler or if you have any ideas or suggestions, please let me know. Email : sirfuller@hotmail.com

Working to keep you posted...

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Shoppes at Northway... it's a done deal

Ross Board of Commissioners approved Shoppes at Northway's development plans (see previous post) on Monday night. As this Tattler has said, anything that can help to revitalize the nearly 45-year-old facility is worth a shot.

Most of the plans for Shoppes at Northway (formerly Northway Mall) sound like a good idea. Although a small amount of stores do seem a little upscale for the Shoppes. Now one must wonder if the anchors will stay -- there has been ongoing rumor that Dick's Sporting Goods will move to Ross Park Mall.

The other interesting thought is what new stores will be attracted. Construction will be done just in time for the Christmas shopping season.

Working to keep you posted...

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

New Northway Stores...

Since Shoppes at Northway plans have gotten the OK from Ross Twp Planners, one has to wonder what stores are coming to the mall. So far, this Tattler has found out the following:

* Homestyles & More - This opened in the late fall on the upper level of the mall across from Dick's Sporting Goods. It is an "interior gallery of fine designer furniture, home accents and more...

This is one store that seems out of place in the Shoppes. Its location seems generally empty and the merchandise does not fill the retail space adequately. This Tattler thinks that the store is a bit too upscale for Northway and would find a better customer base at the Galleria in Mt. Lebanon, South Side Works or various areas in Wexford and Cranberry.

* Pennsylvania Barber School - This is set to open in the first quarter of this year. It will be located next to Homestyles and is a combination barber shop and school.

This seems like a good move for the Shoppes at Northway because the region is in need of a business like this. From what this Tattler understands, barber shops regularly have trouble finding professionally trained barbers because their schools are few and far in betweeen. That is why some have been forced to hire beauticians or salon workers rather than actual barbers.

The barber school will also be a place where you can get a cheap haircut while the students perfect what they have learned.

* The Kid Company - This is an indoor play facility that will feature a gym, miniature bowling alley, bumper cars and more. It will be located where the food court was and will open this spring.

This sounds like an interesting idea to this Tattler because there is nothing else like it in the immediate area. The only other nearby locations would be Wildwood Highlands in North Park and a similar facility in Cranberry.

However, one must remember that an indoor play area used to be at Northway when Discovery Zone was located there. It left the mall several years ago to make way for Fox & The Hound Restaurant.

Although it seems as if The Kid Company will offer much, I guess only time will tell if they can find success at Northway.

* Shoe Carnival - The shoe store based out of Indiana will be the logical replacement for Payless, which vacated the retail facility late last year.

* Mama Lucia's Restaurant - The pizza parlor is currently located in the food court but is in process of constructing a sit down restaurant in the Shoppes at the former Radio Shack and Payless locations. The restaurant will "offer an expanded menu including desserts, espresso as well as outdoor seating."

This Tattler thinks this is another good move for Northway. Offering another sit-down food establishment will enhance the attractiveness of the mall.

* Northway Dollar - The discount store will move to the lower level across from Value City. Their new, expanded store is expected to open in March.

As a dollar store enthusiast, this Tattler believes Northway Dollar is one of the best in the North Hills. Aside from a very large dollar store in Cranberry, everything pales in comparison to Northway Dollar. It can only please this shopper that the store will offer more value-priced items.

However, store owners must be careful not to make the store too big because then it will lose all of its attractive. Remember, that was one of the main problems with a store that was at the current location of Dunham's and Steinmart.

As long as they offer good merchandise, this Tattler cannot see why Northway Dollar wouldn't thrive in their new location.

* If development plans are approved, three exterior buildings will be constructed in various areas of the parking lot.

I would not expect them to be restaurants because that will drastically affect how much parking will be needed. There was talk in the past that mall officials were in discussions with a grocery store or market, however this Tattler has heard nothing of those talks recently.

So, there it is. One can easily visualize how some of these changes will breathe new life into Shoppes at Northway. But what do you think? Or do you have any ideas of which stores would be good for the exterior buildings?

Post a comment and let's get that discussion going.

Working to keep you posted...

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Something Troubling in West View...

As your valued Tattler correspondent, I occasionally get the opportunity to visit a few local municipal meetings and something has not sat right with me recently.

At West View Borough Council meetings (held on the second Wednesday of each month), very little discussion is generally made and votes are usually unanimous. While that may sound like a positive attribute to some, it gives this Tattler an uneasy feeling.

This is quite a contrast to Ross Township Commissioner meetings (held on the second and fourth Monday of each month), where lively debates ensue. Also, there is almost always an opposition voice on the board while DISCUSSING respective issues at hand.

One can only wonder why West View council members almost always vote together on an issue. The lack of discussion is also very puzzling - it seems like the only active members on the board is its president and the borough mayor.

The other members, though I'm sure are committed to public service, just sit there and vote with the pack. This Tattler wonders if these council members have a lack of interest in their respective positions or if the board is just a toy to a puppet master on the borough council.

The solution is simple:

* Urge your local leaders to encourage more discussion amongst board members. This will give the public more insight into the issues West View is dealing with. It could also encourage more discussion amongst the public.

* Support a candidate that may offer a different voice than the board. These individuals can generally offer a different perspective to their borough and the board.

* Hold your local leaders accountable for their actions on borough council. Open a discussion with these local public servants - that is what they are there for.

Hopefully, these West View Borough Council members will begin to discuss issues more frequently and show their overall involvement during the meetings. This Tattler also sincerely hopes they begin to vote with their hearts and minds rather than with the rest of the pack.

Working to keep you posted...