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North Hills Monthly

Community Guide: McCandless Township

Jun 01, 2015 11:30AM ● By Jill Cueni Cohen

Go Ape

In the past 15 years, the Town of McCandless has experienced a transformation throughout its 16-mile span as the area adapts to an explosion of growth; both retail and residential. “McCandless is home of one of the most exciting new developments in the Pittsburgh area,” said Jim Boltz, the executive director of the Pittsburgh North Regional Chamber of Commerce. “McCandless Crossing is a mixed-use development center that includes retail, office, hotels, entertainment and residential. It offers a mixture of national retailers and service providers, first class restaurants and a state-of-the-art cinema. Designed using a ‘Town Center’ concept, all the amenities that one could desire are within walking distance.”

Since its inception in 1992 by developer Kevin Dougherty, president of real estate company AdVenture Development, the 130-acre swath of land along McKnight Road has been going through the process of turning into a town center and retail paradise. Even while it’s under construction, the development is already known to have the trendiest retail offerings in the North Hills, including a 12-screen Cinemark Theatre, Trader Joe’s grocery store, Hilton Home2 Suites, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Lowe’s, Home Goods, and LA Fitness… just to name a few.

According to Dougherty, the original goal was for the project to pull together McCandless’ residential neighborhoods, the North Allegheny School District, UPMC Passavant Hospital, Divine Providence and La Roche College to make it look like a large, well-planned community. “When it all comes together, I think it will be a unique project to metropolitan Pittsburgh," he said.

Still to come is the landscaped Town Center, which will feature a four-sided town clock and a ground-level water fountain. According to Tobias Cordek, McCandless manager, the concept of a town center came from officials at La Roche College who sold the land to AdVenture. “It was in their sales agreement that AdVenture would build under Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND) provisions according to the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code,” said Cordek, explaining that the TND features good design principles and environmental sensitivities, but it makes clear that what is being created is a suburbanized area. "Ours is not intended to be a regional draw, but rather to fulfill our local needs for goods and services."

And the number of locals is growing. In 1880, there were just over 1,000 residents in this municipality named for Judge Wilson McCandless, and in 1960, the population had swelled to more than 14,000. Today, nearly 30,000 people call McCandless home.

Passavant Hospital, now known as UPMC Passavant, opened its doors in 1964 and has grown exponentially to offer citizens a variety of services throughout their lives through the hospital, assisted living, senior living, the Passavant Hospital Foundation and an on-site childcare center.

Award-winning Schools
In 1860, McCandless was the site of Allegheny County’s first one-room school house. Now ranked among the nation's best high schools, North Allegheny Senior High School and its respective school district, which consists of seven elementary schools, three middle schools, one intermediate high school for ninth- and tenth-grade students and the junior-senior high school, is the crowning jewel of the area. It’s also the reason families want to live here. A new museum, dedicated to the North Allegheny School District’s history and curated by local historian Joe Bullick, is currently under construction just off of Ingomar Road at the entrance to North Park. The structure is being built by carpentry students from A.W. Beattie Career Center, an award-winning school that serves students from nine surrounding municipalities.

The Sisters of Divine Providence purchased 40 acres of farmland on Babcock Boulevard in 1925, which is now the site of its motherhouse and parochial school. In 1963, the sisters established La Roche College. In just the past year, the college has become a hub of community-centered activities, which usually take place in its brand-new athletic complex. For instance, the college annually hosts the Western PA FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL) Grand Championship. “We want the college to be seen as an asset and share the use of our facilities,” said Sister Candace Introcaso, president of La Roche College.

North Park
North Park was established by Allegheny County Commissioner E. V. Babcock and founded in 1927. Two-and-a-half miles of the park’s 1,600 acres are located in McCandless, and the area has recently undergone road, trail and even retail renovations.

According to local realtor Mike Netzel, McCandless’ location has always been good, but the new retail opportunities and recent upgrades and new businesses in North Park make the location even better. “With new retail comes new residency,” he pointed out, noting that McCandless is currently experiencing rapid growth. “The McKnight Road corridor has always had a lot of commercial, but not new commercial. The mix of new retailers brings in people who wouldn't come here otherwise.”

North Park’s new restaurant, built in the former Boathouse, state-of-the-art zip-line area, and boat rentals have begun attracting a fresh breed of adventure-seeking visitors to the area. The Over The Bar Bicycle Café is known for its bike-themed burgers and sandwiches as well as its craft brews. Go Ape North Park, which is set in a pine forest overlooking the park’s 63-acre lake, offers Tarzan swings, zip lines and challenging obstacles. And the park itself offers a wealth of outdoor fun, including a golf course, ice skating rink, tennis courts, swimming pool, fishing lake and more.

And then there’s the easy commute. “No matter where you’re commuting to, McCandless is very central in its location. You have so many different ways to get places, and you don’t usually get stuck in traffic,” said Netzel.  

Upcoming Events
•    Aug.: Holy Trinity Greek Church’s food festival
•    Sept. 12: McCandless Community Day
•    Dec. 4: Festival of Lights