Harbor Freight sets opening date for Bethlehem store, one of many new tenants coming to redeveloped Westgate Shopping Center – The Morning Call

A popular retail chain is set to open its brand new Lehigh Valley location in part of the former Weis Markets space at Westgate Mall, formerly known as Westgate Mall, in Bethlehem.

Harbor Freight Tools, a California-based chain offering a wide range of tools, hardware and other home, garden and auto items, will hold a soft opening of its new Bethlehem store on Wednesday, according to Craig Hoffman. , director of Harbor Freight communications and corporate content. The official store opening will take place on July 16 at 8 a.m.

“We always have what we call a soft opening before [the grand opening] — in this case, Wednesday, June 29 — when the store is open, to give our associates time to familiarize themselves with the store so they can more effectively assist our customers,” Hoffman said.

Harbor Freight, founded by Eric Schmidt and his father in 1977, has more than 1,300 stores nationwide, including four regional locations in South Whitehall Township, Richland Township, Wilson and Stroudsburg.

The company has been looking to open a location in Bethlehem for some time, Hoffman said, because Bethlehem-area residents currently have to travel about eight miles to the Easton-area store, 10 miles to the Easton-area store. the Allentown area and 12 miles to the Quakertown area. shop.

Harbor Freight waited to find a location that met its needs and the needs of customers: “good visibility, easy access, ample parking and the right square footage,” Hoffman added.

“We are excited about this new location as it will be much more convenient for our client in the Bethlehem community,” Hoffman said.

Customers will find a comprehensive selection of “quality tools and accessories…at the lowest prices” in categories such as automotive, air and power tools, storage, outdoor power equipment, generators, welding supplies, shop equipment and hand tools, Hoffman said.

“This particular location in the Westgate Mall (2305 Schoenersville Road) will be 15,580 square feet, which is smaller than so-called ‘big box’ stores in our category, and we believe it is ‘a competitive advantage,’ Hoffman said. “Many of our customers are professional tradespeople who want to stop in, find what they need, and then get to their jobsite or shop quickly. For other customers, this size makes it easier to browse and find our great deals. »

The new Harbor Freight store, bringing 25 to 30 new jobs to the community, will occupy approximately 16,000 square feet of space that is being redeveloped with a new facade.

According to Matt Flath, vice president of asset management for Onyx Equities, a New Jersey-based real estate investment and services firm that owns and manages Westgate, an additional 16,000 square feet of the former Weis space remains. available.

The arrival of Harbor Freight in Westgate is good news for the Schoenersville Road shopping centre, which opened in 1973 with dozens of retailers but has been besieged by several vacancies in recent years.

A positive development came in May 2021, when Weis moved from a longtime 32,000 square foot space in the center of the complex to a newly renovated 63,000 square foot store – in a 108,000 square foot building that housed previously the Bon-Ton department store – at the northern end of the complex.

Westgate’s revitalization is set to continue with the recent announcement that three fast food chains, a bank and a retailer will occupy newly constructed buildings following the razing of much of the interior of the Bethlehem Mall.

The third phase of Onyx Equities’ redevelopment plans, which were approved by the Bethlehem Planning Commission on March 10, includes the demolition of approximately 50,000 square feet of the interior of the current mall to allow construction of new approximately 8,000 square feet of new premises.

Two new structures will include a stand-alone bank with drive-thru, next to the relocated Weis Markets grocery store, and an adjacent strip mall that will house Jersey Mike’s Subs, QDOBA Mexican Eats and Starbucks restaurants, the latter including a drive-through through. The mall will also include a retailer that has yet to be announced.

Redevelopment of part of the mall’s infill section will open up the site and provide a connection between the front and back of the center, something it “never had,” said engineer Ryan Whitmore. professional at Landcore Engineering Consultants, during the conference on March 10. Meet.

It will also allow the creation of 55 parking spaces.

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“With the reduction in GLA, gross leasable area and the construction of the new parking lot, it really shifts that parking ratio into a surplus,” Whitmore added.

Tiffany Wells, traffic superintendent for the city, expressed concern about possible traffic jams resulting from Starbucks drive-thru, and commission members, including Chairman Robert Melosky, suggested the possibility of removing at least a dozen parking spaces and changing traffic patterns. to help prevent congestion.

However, Flath noted that quick-service restaurants have a much higher turnover of customers, who like to grab their food and leave, and parking is “sensitive in that area.”

“If you cut 12 places, you might be talking about a catastrophic cut right in front of all these restaurants,” Flath said.

Other changes coming to Westgate include 10,000 square feet of space at the south end of the mall – which previously housed Rite Aid – being leased to the Oak Street Health primary care medical facility (no date provisional opening has been announced); an international quick-service burger chain, which signed a lease to build a 4,500-square-foot freestanding retail space on the north corner of Center across from Weis; and a financial institution, which signed a lease to develop a free-standing 3,500 square foot building on the former Dempsey restaurant pad.

The final two projects are pending site plan approval by the city, and Onyx hopes to begin development toward the end of the year, Flath said.

Built in 1973 on Schoenersville and Catasauqua roads, Westgate continues to house more than a dozen tenants, including Westgate Jewelers, Holiday Hair, Subway, Hawk Music, Amateur Athlete, Westgate Pizza, Grand China Buffet & Grill, Johnny’s Bagels & Deli, GNC, Sky Zone Trampoline Park, Fine Wine & Good Spirits, Tantastic, Outlooks for Hair, Country Rose Flowerist, The Barber Shop, Panda Cleaners and New Sound Hearing Center.

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