10. New North Catholic High School Construction Gets Underway
In June, Bishop David Zubik blessed the site of the new Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School along Route 228 in Cranberry during a groundbreaking ceremony.
From there, it was full speed ahead on construction.
In December, the bishop returned to the area for a "topping out" ceremony as the last beam was hoisted onto the building's steel skeleton. The school is the first the Pittsburgh Diocese has built in 45 years.
“It’s really a dream come true,” Zubik said.
The diocese decided to close the school’s building in Pittsburgh's Troy Hill, where it has been located for more than 70 years, and move programs to Cranberry in response to population growth and shifts in the North Hills.
Now in its seventh month of construction, the school, located along 71 acres near Cranberry’s border with Seven Fields, is scheduled to be open in time for the 2014-15 school year. Once opened, the 179,000 square-foot private school will be able to accommodate up to 1,000 students.
9. Cranberry Township Community Chest Dedicates Scouting Plaza, Plans to Replace PlayTime Palace.
The Cranberry Township Community Chest, an organization that partners with local nonprofits to raise funds for projects that benefit the community, is at the center of two major projects in the area. In October, Cranberry dedicated CTCC’s 2011 “Project of the Year,” the Centennial Scouting Plaza.
Celebrating 100 years of scouting in the community, the three-sided monument overlooks a new one-acre fishing pond at Graham Park. The nonprofit also announced its major project for 2012—replacing the beloved PlayTime Palace at Community Park.
Noting the wooden playground was starting to show wear and tear (earning the nickname “Splinter Palace), a steering committee of residents dreamed up plans for the new “Kids Castle, A Cranberry Uniting Playground.”
The nonprofit Cranberry CUP also has agreed to donate $175,000 over the next five years for the project. Another $250,000 in funding is needed.
PlayTime Palace is scheduled to close April 20, 2013. The new playground is expected to be constructed and ready for dedication by Sept. 29.
8. Cpl. Dan Hahn Returns to Police Work
Cranberry Patch has been following Cpl. Dan Hahn’s story since his devastating injury nearly two years ago.
The veteran Cranberry police officer was critically injured in February 2011 when he fell more than 20 feet from an overpass on Interstate 79 after a high-speed car chase. Despite sustaining a broken back, a spinal cord injury, injuries to his shoulder, sternum and multiple other fractures, Hahn vowed to return to police work.
In December, he did just that.
Hahn, who had to relearn to walk, is taking on administrative duties three days a week, for four hours a day, at the station. Joking he wasn’t ready to retire, the 49-year-old said he hopes to one day work full-time, and maybe even get behind the wheel of a patrol car again.
7. Harmony’s Thriving Small Business Scene
It was the year of the small business in Harmony. In January, owners Josh Meeder and Dana Lowers opened The Center of Harmony in the former Otto & Gert’s building—which also once was an opera house—on Mercer Street.
Inside the century-old space are a number of retailers, including Wunderbar, Eye Kandy, Pearlette, Darn Yarn Needles and Thread, Just Pam, Harmony Wine Cellars and SuMa Integrative Medicine.
The shops join other small business opened in recent years in the community, including Burgh’ers, Stohr Haus Bakery and the Enchanted Olive, and other established businesses like Bottlebrush: A Gallery for the Arts and McPharlin Music.
In December, many of the businesses took part in one of Harmony’s most popular events, the annual WeihnachtsMarkt
6. New Faces at Seneca Valley
There were some major changes to Seneca Valley’s administrative team in 2012 when familiar faces departed the district and others moved into new roles.
In August, Seneca Valley hired Heather Lewis as the district’s new athletic director. She replaced Greg Caprara, whose contract officials chose not to renew when it expired in June. Former middle school principal Dr. Sean McCarty replaced Dr. Jeff Fuller as assistant superintendent of instruction for students in kindergarten through sixth grade after Fuller left to become superintendent of Freedom Area School District. Former assistant principal Andrea Peck replaced McCarty as principal at the middle school.
After longtime Rowan Elementary principal Dr. John Giancola departed for a new job with the Allegheny County Intermediate Unit in December, Nannette Farmar, former assistant principal, was named acting principal of the school.
5. Cranberry Firefighters Dedicate 9/11 Memorial
Placed atop two granite slabs shaped like the World Trade Center buildings, the memorial is centered around an 832-pound piece of twisted steel that fell from one of the towers on Sept. 11. Speaking to hundreds of people gathered for the dedication, Jeff Berneburg, chairman of the fire company’s 9/11 committee, said the monument was dedicated to everyone who lost their lives on Sept. 11, including the 343 first responders to the World Trade Centers.
“We will never forget,” he said.
The memorial is located in front of the company’s Park Fire Station on Route 19.
4. State Redistricts, Former Senator Jane Orie Resigns
Cranberry gained a new congressman and a new state senator thanks to redistricting and former Sen. Jane Orie’s legal troubles.
Orie, a Republican from McCandless, resigned in May, two weeks before she was sentenced to jail for using her state-funded staff to do political work. Her district was made up of communities in Northern Allegheny County and Southern Butler County, including Cranberry—but not much longer.
Under a new legislative map, the 40th District will move to the eastern half of the state to reflect population growth near the New Jersey Border. Orie’s former territory was split between three different districts, with Cranberry and Adams townships, along with Seven Fields, Mars, Evans City and Connoquenessing borough, going to the 21st Senatorial District
The changes will take effect for the 2014 election.
In the meantime, a special election was held for the remainder of Orie’s term, which also ends in 2014. Republican Randy Vulakovich, who formerly represented the 30th legislative district in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, was declared the winner.
3. Seneca Valley Budget and a New Foundation
Citing cutbacks in state funding and ballooning pension costs, Seneca Valley faced another tough budgeting year. In a 6-3 vote in June, school board members gave final approval to a $97.4 million budget for 2012-13 school year that included a 4.4 mill increase in real estate taxes.
By cutting more than a dozen positions—and increasing student activity, lunch and parking fees—the budget closed a $4.8 million dollar shortfall the district faced for this school year.
That’s only the beginning. Superintendent Dr. Tracy Vitale predicted that even with a two-percent tax hike each year, the district’s budget shortfall will be more than $2 million for the 2013-14 school year—and continue to grow by more than $2 million in each year after that. Many of the increased costs, including pensions, which are mandated by the state, cannot be avoided, according to officials.
To address the issue, the district has gotten creative. In March, the district unveiled the Seneca Valley Foundation, a private, tax-exempt nonprofit corporation. The foundation seeks donations and patrons to help develop capital projects, classroom programs and student scholarships for the district. The district also began to allow businesses to buy ad space on the Seneca Valley website and on the school calendars.
2. Penguins, UPMC Make Plans for Cutting Edge Sports Complex
Development was the number one story (again!) in Cranberry, but this one is so large the Patch staff felt it deserved its own spot. In June, plans began to take shape for the Pittsburgh Penguins to partner with UPMC on a cutting edge performance center and practice rink in Cranberry.
Similar in nature to the UPMC sports performance complex on Pittsburgh's South Side, which is used by the Steelers and the University of Pittsburgh, the complex would be located in the Cranberry Woods business park off Route 228.
For hockey fans, there also would be a chance to catch a glimpse of the Penguins star players. When the ice isn't available at the Consol Energy Center, the team would use the new rink. The complex also would host development camps for Penguins hockey prospects, skating classes, public skating session and other programs geared towards teaching youngsters how to play hockey.
While there have been challenges fitting the complex into zoning criteria Cranberry already had established for the property, township manager Jerry Andree was confident plans for the complex will continue to move forward.
1. Booming Development in Cranberry
Cranberry Township is having another banner year for development. According to township figures, about $120 million worth of construction has been completed, is underway or is planned for Cranberry before the year’s end.
A total of about 1.25 million square feet of non-residential space was added to the area this year, including construction of retail, restaurant, office and religious buildings.
When the 2012 investment in private homes and public infrastructure are included, the total is more than $200 million. More than 2,000 new jobs in Cranberry also resulted from all that development, according to township officials.
On of the biggest developments to open in 2012 was the Cranberry Commons retail complex. The plaza is anchored by a two-story Dick’s Sporting Goods, which opened in October. The opening of the GetGo by Giant Eagle, Men’s Wearhouse and Noodles & Company soon followed. Also near completion is a La-Z-Boy furniture showroom. A Juniper Grille restaurant is expected to open in the complex early in 2013.
Opening elsewhere in the township in 2012 was a new Sheetz on Freedom Road, a Hilton Garden Inn on Route 228 and a Courtyard by Marriott hotel in the Cranberry Woods business park. Officials also approved plans for a Red Lobster, which will replace the King’s Family Restaurant on Route 19, and a new Home2 Suites by Hilton, which will be located just below the Westinghouse Electric Company headquarters at the intersection of Longtree Way and Cranberry Woods Drive.
The hillside at the intersection of Ehrman Road and Route 19 also has been graded in preparation for the Century Business Park, which will include a Sheetz gas station and convenience store in its first phase of construction.
Is there a story we missed? What do you think are the top stories of 2012? Tell us in the comment section below!