It’s the only mixed-use development in Lebanon County – so far – and the master plan isn’t even halfway toward being fully realized. Here’s the LebTown guide to understanding North Cornwall Commons: its past, its present, and its future.

North Cornwall Commons sits north of Rocherty Road (center) in North Cornwall Township. The development has its roots in a once-proposed Walmart to exist on the empty field to the left of the photo. To the right is the Lebanon Valley Exposition Center & Fairgrounds. (Will Trostel)

The development has its origins in a never-built Walmart once envisioned for North Cornwall Township. That project, proposed at the very end of 2004, conceived a 277,000-square-foot supercenter to be built on 38 acres of farmland. Plans for Lebanon’s potential third Walmart were enthralled in hearings and, later, litigation – your LebTown editor even made a brief cameo as a freelancer in 2006 to update Daily News readers on its status.

That effort was undertaken by Springwood Development, originally a joint venture between Joseph W. Deerin and Richard Welkowitz. The project became mired in a prolonged zoning struggle, which would not be settled until 2010. By 2007, the plan had expanded across Cornwall Road, with today’s North Cornwall Commons having taken much of its current form as contemporary news reports described the proposed mixed-use development.

The master plan for the development was substantially complete by 2010 when the North Cornwall Township supervisors ratified a settlement agreement (PDF) with Springwood Development which saw the developers discontinue litigation and drop their push for a Walmart at the site. The township, in turn, bound itself to zoning and design standards for the development of the tracts on either side of Cornwall Road, the 81-acre “eastern site” (which is the only area so far developed as North Cornwall Commons) and a combined 54.89-acre “western site.” The settlement agreement was amended (PDF) in 2019 to allow for additional residential units on the eastern site, among other minor revisions.

Byler Holdings principal Jonathan Byler acquired Deerin’s stake in Springwood Development after the real estate developer passed away unexpectedly in January 2012. Byler later acquired the rest of the company in an estate liquidation following Welkowitz’s death in 2019.

Pedestrian focus, new for Lebanon County

Engineer Mike Swank has been with the project since its inception. He began his career as a civil engineer at Steckbeck Engineering, where he got to know the Springwood partners as the lead civil engineer on the project, one of the first he worked on after graduating college. Swank joined Byler Holdings full-time in 2020.

Swank said that the mixed-use development was a new concept for the county when first introduced.

“It’s a little different than what people are used to, but people have really adopted it as they’ve seen it come to fruition,” said Swank. “I think it’s done well.”

Swank noted that the pedestrian focus and rail trail connection have been well received, and there are even residents who both live and work in the development.

Swank said that the on-street parking and slimmed down street widths have served their intended purposes for traffic calming, although they did receive some skepticism at first. While crossing Rocherty Road can be harrowing, pedestrian access within North Cornwall Commons is easy, with sidewalks throughout. The only caveat might be that the roads remain unfinished as the laying of a final wearing course must wait until there’s less heavy construction vehicle traffic at the development.

North Cornwall Commons sits at the intersection of Cornwall and Rocherty roads. On the south side of Rocherty Road is the Lebanon Valley Exposition Center & Fairgrounds. (Will Trostel)

Once development is complete, the final top coat will be on the streets, and then Springwood Drive and Blackford Boulevard will be dedicated to North Cornwall Township, Swank said. The exception will be the townhouse streets, which will remain private and maintained by the homeowners association. Springwood is responsible for the stormwater management at the site, and had also previously extended public sewer into the complex, an improvement that also benefited the fairgrounds.

Swank said that North Cornwall Commons has been developed in general conformance with the 2010 settlement agreement, and he highlighted the 2019 amendments as addressing areas where developers refined the plan in collaboration with the township.

“There have been some changes based on market demand, and the township has been wonderful to work with, and having those discussions,” said Swank.

Swank also credited Patrick Kerwin and Harry Bachman at the Lebanon Valley Exposition Center & Fairgrounds as being great partners for the project.

Project is broken into six different phases

The full project, encompassing both the eastern and western sites, is broken up into six different phases, starting with Phase 1A and ending with Phase 5, although they haven’t ended up being built sequentially. Phase 1A, Phase 1, Phase 2, and Phase 3 constitute the eastern site, while Phase 4 and Phase 5 are on the western site.

Development has thus far focused on Phase 1A, Phase 1, and Phase 3.

Phase 2, Phase 4, and Phase 5 remain planned, but no specific plans have been announced for them yet.

Here’s the LebTown guide to what’s been planned or built for each phase.

Phase 1A

The very first construction at North Cornwall Commons was the Trail Side Townhomes neighborhood, built by Kenneth Homes.

An aerial view of the North Cornwall Commons development captured in July 2020. The apartment buildings will be placed alongside Springwood Drive. Construction of the Fairfield Marriott is visible in the lower-left-hand corner. (Will Trostel)

One hundred sixty total townhomes were constructed and sold to individual owners. These privately-owned units are managed through a homeowners association.

The Trail Side Townhomes community was the very first construction to take place at North Cornwall Commons. The 160 privately-owned units share a homeowners association, as well as a pool and clubhouse. The neighborhood also enjoys access to the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail. (Will Trostel)

A trailhead for the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail is located behind the townhomes. This trailhead improvement, stipulated by the settlement agreement, opened in 2019. Townhome owners also have access to a clubhouse and pool managed by the HOA.

Read More: New Rails to Trails entrance opened at North Cornwall Commons (April 2019)

The Lebanon Valley Rail Trail runs alongside North Cornwall Commons. As part of a 2010 settlement agreement with North Cornwall Township, the developers installed a trailhead entrance to the recreational trail behind the Trail Side Townhomes community. (Will Trostel)

Phase 1

Phase 1 is the area of North Cornwall Commons known by the greatest number of Lebanon County residents, as it is home to a wide-ranging array of retail establishments which have opened over the last few years, starting with Ancestor Coffeehouse & Creperie in 2019.

Read More: Ancestor Coffeehouse & Creperie to open in May at North Cornwall Commons (April 2019)

Since then, new offerings have included, in no particular order: Mick’s All-American Pub, Isaac’s Craft Kitchen and Brewery, ASH Cigar & Whiskey Bar, and the Visit Lebanon Valley Welcome Center. Other tenants include State Farm, Caliber Home Farms, Coldwell Banker, Oola Bowls, Your SPAcial Place, and Premier Nails.

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The retail buildings of Phase 1 are now all complete. Oola Bowls was the most recent tenant to open up shop in the latest and final retail building constructed in Phase 1, with a couple more spaces still available for lease in that third retail building. Swank said that Oola Bowls has been doing great business so far.

The building toward the front right was the first retail building to open at North Cornwall Commons. Among its offerings are Ancestor Coffeehouse & Creperie and Isaac’s Craft Kitchen and Brewhouse. A second retail building toward the center opened last year. A third retail building, partly visible toward the far left, opened earlier this year. (Will Trostel)

Read More: Work on restaurant, apartments in North Cornwall Commons begins (March 2021)

The corner of Cornwall and Rocherty Roads. Mick’s All-American Pub occupies the corner in the front center. A 90-room Fairfield Inn & Suites behind it opened in July 2021. (Will Trostel)

Phase 1 also includes a four-story, 90-room hotel operated by Shaner Hotels under Marriott’s Fairfield Inn & Suites flag. The hotel opened in July 2021.

State College-based Shaner Hotels operates the four-story, 90-room Marriott Fairfield Inn & Suites in North Cornwall Commons. Visible across Cornwall Road in the background is the “western site” of North Cornwall Commons, which will be the location for Phase 4 and Phase 5 of the project. (Will Trostel)

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“Everything that’s come in has been successful,” said Swank. “I think there is demand for a lot of the businesses have come in.”

Swank said that the location seems to be working out for the retail tenants.

“Talking with our tenants, they’ve very pleased about how well they’re doing,” said Swank. “We are as well.”

Swank said that the hotel draws guests for popular tourist destinations like the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire and Hersheypark, as well as local events held at the fairgrounds.

Read More: Demand for retail space in Lebanon County expected to remain high (July 2020)

Phase 2

Although, at some point, “Phase 2” might have been anticipated as being constructed second, it didn’t work out that way. Swank noted that the planning process has been going on for about two decades, giving plenty of time for priorities to evolve, not to mention the pandemic’s disruptive impact on just about everyone’s plans for the last few years.

Originally, Phase 2 was going to be an office park of some kind, but now it seems more likely to be developed as senior or retirement living, said Swank.

“Phase 2 was originally planned for office buildings, and that’s just not where the market is right now,” said Swank. “People aren’t looking for office space.”

The developer is talking to a few existing retirement community operators, with ideas ranging from a provider taking the whole swath of land and building out a mini-community/satellite campus to buying a couple of lots to start and see how it goes.

“In talking with a lot of these communities and providers, there is a demand for it in Lebanon County,” said Swank of what he’s hearing in conversations with potential partners regarding the need for additional independent living inventory.

The land dedicated to Phase 2 can be seen toward the back of this photo. Springwood Drive would be extended past the existing red barn – which is being eyed for reuse – and connected with Norman Drive. The existing stormwater management pond and walking trail would be kept. (Will Trostel)

Also located on this part of the property is a red barn. Swank said that Springwood is very interested in seeing the barn reused, but a few interested parties have shied away after seeing the cost of rehabilitating it for use. Still, Swank said it’s a great structure – well-built and with timbers that are in remarkably good shape.

A stone barn in the North Cornwall Commons development. (Joshua Groh)

Read More: A beginner’s guide to the barn architecture of Lebanon County

Swank said that conversations got particularly far with a brewer who was interested in installing vertical tanks and offering a small food component.

“We’re hoping to be able to reuse it in some way,” said Swank.

Campbell Commercial Real Estate is helping market the opportunity and has a three-acre parcel listed on its website for $1.5 million. Not including the barn parcel, there are about 16 acres available for development in Phase 2.

The settlement agreement requires the developers to wait at least 15 years from when the first building permit was issued for a nonresidential building before the barn could be demolished in order to provide ample opportunity for its reuse to become a reality.

Swank said that as Phase 2 proceeds and Springwood Drive is extended, he hopes to see renewed interest in the barn.

Springwood Drive will also eventually be connected with Norman Drive in the Tuck Business Park. Swank said that the company is currently working out a land swap arrangement with WellSpan, which now owns the former Lebanon Cardiology parcel visible in the map below, to help with the road project.

Norman Drive in the Tuck Business Park will be connected with Springwood Drive in North Cornwall Commons.

Springwood Development received $500,000 in state redevelopment funds last year, which will cover a portion of the expense to construct the road that will connect Springwood Drive to Norman Drive.

Read More: State awards $3 million in redevelopment grants to local applicants

Swank said that Springwood hopes to begin construction on Phase 2 later this year.

Phase 3

Phase 3 of North Cornwall Commons will contain a mix of apartments, office space, and retail/professional/non-industrial uses.

Construction of the first 110-unit apartment building began in 2020 and was completed by late 2021. A second building – the mirror of the first – was opened in November 2022.

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The first building is 110 units, a mixture of one- and two-bedroom configurations, with more one-bedroom configurations. The second building is the same building footprint, but the ratio of units is flipped so that there are more two-bedroom than one-bedroom units, resulting in 95 units.

The first two apartment buildings constructed at North Cornwall Commons are in the center. Together, they contain 205 units in a mix of one- and two-bedroom configurations. A third 129-unit apartment building is currently under construction toward the lower right. A fourth 99-unit apartment building is planned.

Swank said that the first building is fully leased, except for some turnover with move-outs. It was opened at the end of 2021. The second building is about 65-70% leased, said Swank.

A community building and pool are planned for the apartment community, and although the pool isn’t expected to be ready for this swimming season, construction on the facilities will begin in the coming weeks. The building will also be home to apartment complex staff and include a community space, a small kitchen, and a golf simulator.

“One of the things we’ve really tried to do with our apartment buildings is provide amenity spaces outside of the unit,” said Swank. “So in each building, we have a gym, as well as a lounge area for residents.” There are also outdoor patios available for resident use.

Parking for the apartment buildings is located away from the streets. A community building and pool will eventually be built on the dirt area seen toward the lower-left corner. (Will Trostel)

Apartment building three, currently under construction, will contain a larger range of configuration options, ranging from studio layouts to three-bedroom apartments.

“As we get interested individuals or families that are interested in buildings one or two, our leasing agent and manager are able to talk to them and get their feedback as to what they’re looking for,” said Swank.

“We have seen some interest in a slightly lower price point with the studio apartments – maybe a single person who doesn’t need as large of a space – but we’ve also had some inquiries about a family, who may need some more space with children.”

Swank noted that the apartment buildings have been constructed with insulated concrete forms, a construction technique where concrete is cast in place using rebar between two layers of insulation. The resulting poured concrete walls are structurally strong and provide a high degree of sound and temperature insulation.

Construction of the first building took place during the COVID-19 pandemic and experienced material delays that slowed down the schedule. However, Swank noted, the insulated concrete form construction technique meant that the project was also less affected by the volatility in lumber prices.

Apartment building three at North Cornwall Commons, which is currently under construction. The 129-unit building will contain layouts ranging from studios to three-bedroom apartments.

Apartment building three is currently expected to be complete by early spring 2024. Swank said that potentially after that building is complete, they’ll start on building four.

“Obviously, we want to stagger those a little bit so we’re not leasing two buildings simultaneously,” said Swank. “To be determined exactly when we start building four, based on market demand and how the financial market looks.”

Also currently under construction in Phase 3 is a 27,000-square-foot three-story office building.

Byler Holdings’ corporate headquarters will relocate from its current space near the Iron Valley Golf Course to this new building. Jonathan Byler previously told LebTown that the company would utilize the third floor and half of the first floor of the building, leaving the second floor and half of the first floor available for other tenants.

Swank said that there will be six tenant spaces in the office building, and the company is currently working to get some initial leases finalized.

The building is on track for completion by late summer or early fall, Swank said.

Swank said that additional lots in Phase 3 are available to be purchased for nonindustrial uses. Campbell Commercial Real Estate is helping to market the lots.

Phase 4 and Phase 5

Phase 4 and Phase 5 bring us back to where the project originally started, on the western side of Cornwall Road, the former Kreider farm where once a Walmart had been proposed.

To the north of the western site is the new Lebanon County 911 Center, which is expected to be completed later this year. The western site runs along the backside of the current commercial corridor on Route 72, from Cedar Crest Square nearly to Rocherty Road.

Springwood Development has also acquired four of the five residential properties on Cornwall Road adjacent to its original 54.89-acre western site, adding 2.12 acres. A lone .30-acre residential property remains unpurchased. WellSpan owns an additional 9.9 acres toward the south of the western site alongside Rocherty Road, including a historic barn.

Read More: WellSpan says no plans decided for lot at Rocherty & Cornwall with historic barn

Plans for Phase 4 and Phase 5 include extending Blackford Boulevard across Cornwall Road to connect the eastern and western sites. The extension would connect to the road that currently terminates at Quentin Crossings, where 7 Cuz Beer Store and Jersey Mike’s are located.

Blackford Boulevard would be extended across Cornwall Road as part of Phase 4 and Phase 5 development at North Cornwall Commons. (LebTown)

Swank said that Springwood Development will need to obtain a PennDOT Highway Occupancy permit for the access, and PennDOT will determine what improvements may be needed for the intersection. Swank said that after the connection is made between Route 72 and Cornwall Road, the entire stretch is expected to be dedicated by the township.

Swank said that the company is currently working on sketches for Phase 4 and Phase 5 to determine what might be feasible and what the market demands.

“As we start that process, we’ll need to reengage traffic estimates and everything with PennDOT, and revive some of those conversations from the master plan and see how our proposed uses might compare to the originally estimated traffic drivers,” said Swank.

Swank said that, contingent on market demand, he expects Phase 4 and Phase 5 to be anchored by big-box stores.

“We’re currently in discussions with some that we feel helpful about, but to be determined,” said Swank. “We don’t have anything on paper just yet.”

Swank said that Springwood Development is working with Bennett Williams Commercial for Phase 4 and Phase 5.

The list of allowed uses for Phase 4 and Phase 5 is stipulated in the settlement agreement as follows:

  • Public grounds and public utility structures
  • Retail sales and rental of all consumer goods
  • Farmers and/or flea markets
  • Theaters
  • Hotels and motels
  • Banks, savings, and loan associations
  • Business and professional offices
  • Medical, dental, optical, and veterinary offices, clinics, and associated pharmacies
  • Daycare centers
  • Health, fitness, and recreational clubs, gymnasiums, and spas
  • Indoor amusement enterprises
  • Automobile repair garage and associated washing facilities
  • One gasoline station as an accessory use of an anchor store
  • Laundromat
  • Personal service shops
  • Museums
  • Bakers, caterers, and confectioners
  • Sit-down restaurants, nightclubs, and late-night entertainment venues
  • Fast food restaurants, drive-in restaurants, and/or drive-through restaurants
  • Park and ride lots

Phase 4 and Phase 5 plans are still very early in the process, Swank said.

Video tour

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Davis Shaver is the publisher of LebTown. He grew up in Lebanon and currently lives outside of Hershey, PA.


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