Construction continues at Bakers Centre site, opening slated for Fall 2013

With large trucks and earth-moving equipment busy, the Bakers Centre shopping plaza is beginning to come to life at the former Tastykake site.

The retail components of the 30-acre shopping center, which will be anchored by a Brown’s Shop Rite, are almost completely pre-leased and buildings should start going up in September with an expected opening a year later, said Greg Bianchi, vice president of US Realty Associates.

“Everything gets tied in to the Shop Rite, so we will have one big grand opening,” he said.

The site sits at a key interchange between Fox Street, Roberts and Hunting Park avenues in what is either Nicetown, East Falls or Ridge-Allegheny-Hunting Park, depending on whom you ask. There are 150,000 people living within three miles of the site, but no supermarket has served the immediate neighborhood in decades.

For the landmark Tastykake building, several large prospective tenants have submitted proposals, including a first-floor retailer, and possibly a school and offices on the upper floors, said Peter Maggio, director of retail leasing for US Realty.

In one scenario, the lower level of the Tastykake building could be converted to parking to serve the building’s tenants. SEPTA has already announced it will re-route several bus lines to incorporate stops inside the shopping center. In September, the project received $12 million in Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program funding secured by state Sen. Vincent Hughes.

The roster of tenants already signed for the retail spaces, which sit both within the center next to the ShopRite and along Hunting Park Avenue, includes Ross Dress for Less, Wendy’s, the Kicks USA sneaker store, two dollar stores, a Subway, Joyce Leslie, Hair Buzz, a yet-unnamed buffet restaurant, a nail salon, Warrick Uniforms, a laundromat, and the local Victoria’s Kitchen restaurant.

If the whole project seems less than inspiring or sophisticated, that’s OK, the developers say. The project isn’t trying to be something it’s not — but it aims to be a good neighbor.

“This is a neighborhood, and this is a neighborhood shopping center, which are traditionally grocery store-anchored and that will fill a void in this market,” Bianchi said.

For now, the site is still in the very early stages of redevelopment. The warm spring made for overgrowth of some bushes, and there have been concerns about trash dumping, especially along the Roberts Avenue side.

Bianchi and Maggio said their property management company would look into the dumping and keep the site clean. They urged neighbors with complaints about the condition of the site, or questions about the project, to reach out to them directly at 215-557-9900.

NewsWorks has partnered with independent news gatherer PlanPhilly to provide regular, in-depth, timely coverage of planning, zoning and development news. Contact Amy Z. Quinn at azquinn@planphilly.com.

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