Mike Swisher

Holly Tonini/Observer-Reporter

Holly Tonini/Observer-Reporter

Mike Swisher of Horizon Properties Group talks about upcoming projects at Southpointe.

Mike Swisher reflected back on Town Center, before there was a Town Center in Southpointe. It was an ambitious vision, and a singularly-focused vision.

“We were going to have a big retail center there,” says Swisher, principal of Horizon Properties Group, lead developer of the mixed-use park built in two phases.

Retail was a viable pursuit a decade ago, and a much-needed dynamic in an expanse of 813 acres with corporate headquarters, recreation, residences, two college branches, a large indoor ice rink – but little retail.

Then the Great Recession struck and the retail industry began to slide, a decline that isn’t as precipitous today, but still ongoing. So plans changed for Town Center, which has evolved into a mixed-use section of the mixed-use park.

“Instead of a half-million square feet of retail, we have apartments, restaurants and some retail,” Swisher says with a smile. “It’s a better situation. I think what we have there is right.”

In its silver anniversary year, Southpointe has struck gold again with Town Center, a modern, sparkling, relatively new section of Southpointe II. There is retail, to be sure, but also a range of restaurants, banking, dental offices and a fitness center among more than a dozen businesses operating along Main Street.

The area is easily accessible, by car or by foot, especially for tenants of the large apartment complex on the edge of Main, many of whom conveniently walk to work, to dinner and to home.

Town Center continues to evolve, the most recent addition being the sandwich chain Jimmy John’s, which opened a location in late 2017. It probably will be joined this summer by Steel Cactus Mexican Restaurante and Cantina, which will move into the space where Saga Hibachi & Sushi previously operated. Boom Noodle while share the site with Steel Cactus.

Pittsburgh-based AMPD Group runs that regional Mexican restaurant chain, whose co-founder and principal, Adam DeSimone, is planning an August opening. That will likely be the sixth Steel Cactus location, and first outside Allegheny County. Steel Cactus is in Shadyside, South Side, PNC Park and Pittsburgh International Airport, and is targeted to open at the Cool Springs Sports Complex, Bethel Park, on May 5 – cinco de mayo.

Asked why Southpointe was selected, Sarah Masterson, AMPD’s director of marketing and events, said: “Town Center, for lack of a better term, was booming. And there’s definitely the right clientele there.”

An event venue named Noah’s Event Venue is being built behind Town Center, and is expected to open in late April. This local location of the national chain will be available for a variety of uses, including wedding receptions, ceremonies and corporate get-togethers. Swisher says Noah’s proximity to Town Center restaurants should provide a boost to those that provide catering.

One of the hot initiatives at Southpointe, and many locations nationwide, is co-working loft offices. “We recognized this five or six years ago,” Swisher says.

These offices are described as open work spaces in a “professional-casual atmosphere.” Zip Office opened in Southpointe last year, where offices and meeting space may be rented by the day or month.

Horizon has finished two of these co-working projects in Southpointe, and Swisher says both are fully occupied. One has a waiting list.

The company is in the midst of two other loft office construction projects in the area: at Street at the Meadows off Racetrack Road in North Strabane Township, and at Evergreene Technology Park outside Waynesburg.

“You can lease a small office or three offices,” Swisher says. “This is very popular with the mobile workforce of today.”

And just when it seems all real estate in the park is accounted for ... Ground will be broken in late spring for Park Place at Southpointe Town Center, a hotel-office complex around the corner from Main Street. Swisher says there will be 50,000 square feet of office space, ground-floor retail and 90 hotel rooms. He adds that his company has to decide between two brands, but that the project has been approved.

Swisher is pleased over how the park continues to evolve, with farmers’ markets and other events gaining popularity; the development of 500 apartments and 160 houses inside the park’s parameters; and with how Southpointe has rebounded from the two and a half-year downturn in the oil and gas industry, which caused a few related companies to bolt.

Gas and oil had a larger presence in the park before the slump. Swisher says firms from other sectors have moved in and vacancy rates are down.

“In 2017,” he says, “we leased 75,000 square feet (or more) to six companies, and four of them were non-energy companies. What happened the last three years changed the nexus of Southpointe. We had a lot of financial, insurance and other service companies come into Southpointe and saw growth from Mylan, Crown Castle and ANSYS. Southpointe is not really going to live and die by the energy market. Going through the energy downturn has made for a healthier Southpointe.”

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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