Joe Hardy is tackling a project that is smaller in scope than 84 Lumber or Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, but ambitious nonetheless.

The company he founded, Hardy World, has begun moving earth along Interstate 70 in Somerset Township, where a flex building with 16 business spaces will be constructed. The project is named HW70 and will be located on a tract that is familiar to local residents and I-70 passers-by: where the Carlton Hotel and Diner stood for decades.

A mid-May opening is targeted.

Hardy, the 98-year-old entrepreneur and real estate developer, sounded like a youngster nine decades his junior when he discussed the project. “I’m excited about it. I think it will do very, very well,” he said over the telephone from his Nemacolin offices in Fayette County.

The focal point for his enthusiasm is the mixed-use facility will be in plain view from I-70, and easily accessible from the Kammerer exit. An estimated 30,000 vehicles wheel past daily.

Hardy World is a private equity real estate development firm based in Bentleyville that has developed and managed properties elsewhere in the country. This latest project is a short jaunt from where he launched 84 Lumber, his global building materials supply company, in 1956.

He said Hardy World has been working on this project “for about three years.” The firm owns the land where Carlton Diner was razed in 2019, and where the diner shuttered at the end of that year before relocating three miles to the east, to Bentleyville’s revitalized business district.

“We’ve had lots of interest” from would-be tenants,” Hardy said.

His daughter, Taylor Hardy, HW’s vice president of operations, said the flex building will have about 28,000 square feet of operational space. Spaces will be flexible in size, the smallest being 1,695 feet, on a property zoned B-1 for general business. Parking, she assured, will not be at a premium.

“This area really needs good restaurants right off the interstate,” Taylor said, acknowledging that retail and other uses could be served there. She added that no tenants are on board yet, that the company is now pre-leasing.

Taylor said this is the first project that Hardy World is acting as the contractor, “managing the entire project. We are utilizing local companies as subcontractors.”

Grading began March 3. Taylor said an estimated 10 workers have been handling the prep work, and that 35 to 40 workers ultimately will be involved with the project.

When completed, HW70 should be a source for dozens of jobs, and could – literally – drive additional business to retailers and the food service industry in Bentleyville. The new project could further enhance a corridor where Alta Vista Business Park, in nearby Fallowfield Township, has had an uptick in corporate leases the past two years.

HW70 – named for Hardy World and Interstate 70 – is underway. Joe Hardy, the visionary behind 84 Lumber and Nemacolin Woodlands, has undertaken numerous projects over the decades. His estimated worth, according to idolnetworth.com, is $1.2 billion. So he knows business, and is optimistic about what will transpire at the Somerset Township site.

“I think it will be very desirable,” he said.

Business Writer

Rick Shrum joined the Observer-Reporter as a reporter in 2012, after serving as a section editor, sports reporter and copy editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rick has won eight individual writing awards, including two Golden Quills.

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