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Lower Macungie planners review changes to proposed Hamilton Square complex

Brian Myszkowski
The team behind a proposed 10,000 square foot retail and restaurant project along Hamilton Boulevard presents updates for their plan to the Lower Macungie Planning Commission on Tuesday, April 9, 2024.

LOWER MACUNGIE TWP., Pa. — A proposed retail complex intended for Hamilton Boulevard will require a bit more finesse before it can move forward, Lower Macungie Township Planning Commission said Tuesday.

Applicant Gabriel Joseph, North Star Construction Management Inc. and Newton Engineering presented an updated design for the Hamilton Square project — a two-building restaurant-and-retail space set for 5372-5373 Hamilton Blvd. — detailing a few significant shifts.

Commissioners took no action on the project, but shared some opinions on the plans.

Originally introduced in July 2023, Hamilton Square would consist of two structures totaling 10,000 square feet.

Joseph said he has no preference for particular tenants at the moment, though he would like to see a variety of shops.

The site location includes five properties with seven driveways surrounded by Hamilton Crossings. Access to Hamilton Boulevard now is available, but the property lacks access to North Krocks Road and has no pedestrian linkage on the site.

Harold “Bud” Newton, president and principal engineer/surveyor for Newton Engineering, noted one of the larger changes was the designs of the two structures and switching one to face forward on Hamilton Boulevard.

The two buildings originally were to be 5,000 square feet each, but have since been adjusted to make the structure perpendicular to Hamilton Boulevard 6,850 square feet, and the front-facing structure 3,150 square feet.

“Last August, we had the patios in front of the building, we had a lot more area where the parking was up closer to Hamilton Boulevard,” Newton said.

“Because of the meetings that we had with staff over the past several months, between last August and now, you can see that we moved the buildings closer to the roadway.

"We added the patios along Hamilton Boulevard, we moved some of the parking back. We actually turned the right building to be a long, more parallel panel, and we made the left building wider and deeper to pick up more square footage.”

Newton Engineering/North Star Construction Management Inc.
Current plans for the Hamilton Square project.

With the shift of the buildings, the developers also removed a stamped crosswalk running through the lot, added outdoor dining areas to the larger building, and shifted several trees around the property.

Adjusting the plan also improved access to the site for fire trucks, Newton said, as it eliminated dead end parking and was adjusted to accommodate Lower Macungie Township’s fire trucks.

Newton said one of the key concerns with moving forward on the project was the fact that “we have less than two acres for a commercial project which requires two acres, and because we will probably have some restaurant uses in this strip, the strip buildings are going to have to get conditional use for that.”

Another issue will involve getting a new permit for anticipated traffic on the site, which an ITE Trip Generation model calculated would encompass 652 trips per day, exceeding an existing permit for the property that allowed for 565 vehicles per day.

Furthermore, the developers will need a special exception from the township’s Zoning Hearing Board to use joint parking for restaurant and retail use as per the zoning ordinance.

Planning Commission Secretary Ozias Moore voiced a small concern over ADA accessibility in the new plan, including a safe walkway for customers to travel between the two buildings in a safe manner.

"When I have an accident and I’m on crutches, then I get a whole new view of the world,” Moore said.

Newton said "that is a good point," and said a crosswalk could be added to the area near accessible parking spots.

Planners Vice Chairwoman Martine Minninger questioned “a restaurant having people bringing their trash out the front door to go across the parking lot to that side corner to take it to the trash.

"So I would just think about that a little bit.”

Newton Engineering/North Star Construction Management Inc.
A rendering of what the Hamilton Square project could look like.

According to Newton, the site size requires that setup, with back doors to the buildings likely limited to emergency exits not able to be used for trash disposal trips.

Planning board member Ryan Kennedy noted some points of concern around the design aesthetics, including what the setup would look like based on location.

Kennedy said it would play a significant part of how the complex would look to the community.

“I think I expressed my concern last time in August," he said. "I know it's a tricky site, and I know there's a certain quota to get in there for tenants.

"But I’m just not convinced the buildings are oriented the best way for the community. It might be oriented the best way for developer, but I mean this property is one of the gateways to the township.

"It's one of the prized possessions, so this has to be right. I'm just not convinced with the orientation right now.”

Newton said he believed the current plans satisfied the necessary ordinances, though he was receptive to commentary from the commission.

The developers will be headed to the township’s zoning hearing board soon before they intend to return to the planning commission.