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Exeter Commons Opening Offers Community New Shopping Experience

THE MERCURY, August 21, 2009

Exeter Commons shopping center is providing township residents and those of surrounding communities with more shopping and dining opportunities closer to home, and with a smoother ride there.

“As far as our strategic mapping … looking at Berks County and where existing stores were … this was what we’ll call the hole in the donut,” said Kevin Trapper, senior vice president of the Goldenberg Group, one of the developers. “This was an area that was under-served and under-retailed.”

Trapper said many of the shops have opened in July and August, though a grand opening will be held in October after all the stores are open.

He said the retail locations will provide opportunities to shop in nationally known stores that are close to home, and it’s something he was excited about.

Many of the customers agreed.

“It’s close to home,” said Susan Broome of Exeter. “There’s one traffic light and you’re here.”

Broome said she considers herself one of the people who is excited about having “more shopping opportunities” with new retailers that have already opened and will be opening through the rest of the summer and fall.

Leaving Target with a Starbucks drink in her hand, Broome said the convenience of a Starbucks inside Target was a definite advantage for customers and retailers alike.

Trapper said in addition to the shopping opportunity the new stores will create for locals, the improvements to the traffic patterns in the area are something even passing motorists can appreciate.

Route 422 in the area was “old and it was being over-taxed by the number of cars using it,” Trapper said. Construction of Exeter Commons allowed the developer to use grants to supplement the funds they put into the traffic improvements, including road widening and additional signals.

Of the $18 million total cost for the traffic improvements, Trapper said about $12 million came from grants and the other $6 million was picked up by developers at the Goldenberg Group of Blue Bell and Ironwood Property Group of Conshohocken.

Trapper called the traffic project “a really great public-private partnership,” and said it “solved a problem that had existed as far as traffic and safety,” which neither PennDOT or Exeter Township had plans or funds to address in the near future.

So once shoppers make their way to Exeter Commons, they have a dozen or so stores and restaurants to check out.

In addition to Target, other retailers already open include Five Below, Giant, Famous Footwear, PETCO, Sleepy’s and America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses.

Opening soon will be Staples, T-Mobile, GameStop, Supercuts and Lowe’s. Wachovia and Affinity bank branches are also scheduled to open this fall.

Chik-Fil-A, Sonic, America’s Drive-In and Red Robin are already open and satisfying the appetites of hungry customers.

Abandoned City School to Be Revitalized

NBCPHILADELPHIA.COM, July 13, 2009

Boarded up windows and a dusty gymnasium that has been empty for four years is finally gonna come face to face with students again. John Wanamaker Middle School at 12th and Cecil B. Moore Avenue is making a come back, but with an array of new purposes.

The middle school sits directly across the street from and its owner, Bright Hope Baptist Church who has partnered up with the Goldenberg group, a Blue Bell based developer for its $250 million transformation.

The Bright Hope-Goldenberg Group project will make its mark in the spring of 2010, creating residential towers for Temple University that would house 800 units and alleviate community concerns with neighborhood housing. Also in the works is a small business center to mentor programs for start-up businesses, a charter school, a retail shopping area and training centers focused on the green technologies.

And the Wanamaker school is already a special place, according to Dr. Kevin R. Johnson, senior pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church. Dr. Martin Luther King attended the groundbreaking ceremony for Bright Hope Baptist, which was held in the auditorium of the Wanamaker school in 1963.

Bright Hope is anticipating another groundbreaking, one that will give back to the community. “Helping the youth and parents, because the children are a reflection of our parents” Johnson said. This effort that Jones refers to as the, “Empowerment Village”, aims to show its concern for the residents in the 19122 area of North Philadelphia, where a high percentage of residents live below poverty level. Johnson calls this venture a “faith project.”

“How Bright Hope could help the community and the people was the church’s focus.” The project that Jones calls “revolutionary” will create electrician, plumbing, carpenter and construction jobs in North Philadelphia. “Most of the projects that we are involved in reutilize abandoned buildings to enhance the neighborhood and protect the environment,” David Mecuris, Senior Vice-President, The Goldenberg Group.

Before settling with the Goldenberg Group, there was emphasis placed on economic empowerment for the community in order to obtain a partnership. “I cannot sign into a project where money will be made in our community and go to another community,” Johnson said. “The building has a blight look to it but I’m waiting for the life to come back.”

At the end of the project, which is expected to take three phases to complete, the once known John Wanamaker Middle School will have a new name, Brighter Hope Plaza.

A new kind of homeroom Old middle school to house Temple students.

By Jennifer Lin INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

Classrooms are dusty and empty, halls silent. But reminders of student days at John Wanamaker Middle School at 12th Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue are everywhere.

Artwork on yellowing paper lines the walls of a dark auditorium. Smudged chalk notes cover blackboards. Gymnastic rings hang at the ready.

Closed four years ago, the Wanamaker School in North Philadelphia is set to come back to life, but with an unusual new mix of uses – apartments for Temple University students, a charter school, a training center, a community hub for neighbors.

The $250 million project, which City Council approved last month, is a partnership between the nonprofit development arm of Bright Hope Baptist Church and the Goldenberg Group, a Blue Bell-based developer.

With Temple’s main campus next door, the Wanamaker property had been sought by many developers, including the university itself. The Bright Hope-Goldenberg partners paid the school district $10.75 million for the nearly five-acre site.

Renovations could begin next spring, with the first student apartments available in the fall of 2011.

The Rev. Kevin R. Johnson, senior pastor of Bright Hope, which sits across the street from the Wanamaker School, called the hybrid use of the building “revolutionary.”

“It’s something that not only needs to be done,” Johnson said, “but should have been done a long time ago.”

Temple’s explosive growth in recent years has strained relations between the university community and the surrounding neighborhoods.

Enrollment has jumped 60 percent in the last decade, to about 26,000 undergraduates. Today, roughly 40 percent of them, or about 11,000 students, request nearby housing. But with just 4,500 dorm rooms, Temple can guarantee on-campus housing for only the first two years – a policy change made in 2004 in response to rising enrollment, said Michael Scales, Temple’s associate vice president of student affairs.

The presence of more and more students in the neighborhoods is not without problems.

Residents of Yorktown, an enclave of suburban-style single homes on the south side of Cecil B. Moore, have complained about late-night parties, dwindling parking, and absentee landlords who fill single-family homes with students.

Colin Jones, an executive vice president for the Goldenberg Group, said the new Wanamaker Center was an attempt to “marry Temple’s needs, ours, and the community’s.”

“You have to have community support,” Jones said. “Otherwise the project’s not going to be a success.”

Like many universities, Temple is not building dorms but relying on the private market to provide space. In recent years, developers have converted buildings or constructed residences to house 3,000 students.

Projects now in the works would make available another 3,000 beds. While the size and configuration of student apartments vary, the average cost for a student is anywhere from $650 to $750 a month.

Bart Blatstein, who developed the Edge at Avenue North near 15th Street and Cecil B. Moore, is planning a second apartment project next door with 1,100 beds.

The Philadelphia School District closed the Wanamaker School in 2005. It was used briefly after Hurricane Katrina to house displaced families from New Orleans but has been empty since then.

The first phase calls for converting the north side of the building into seven floors of housing for about 600 students.

As part of that, Jones said, the Goldenberg Group will abide by a 1997 consent decree between the school district and the Environmental Protection Agency to remove a limited area of contamination from polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, in a generator room. “We’re used to dealing with this,” Jones said.

The south side of the Wanamaker School will be reserved for community uses. Although those plans are still in the works, they ideally will include a charter school, a “green technology” training center, and other space for community uses, Johnson of Bright Hope said. He envisions “an empowerment village” that raises the educational level of children and adults from the area.

Through its nonprofit community development corporation, the church is looking at possible models for a kindergarten-through-12th-grade charter school. Johnson said he would like to start small with a kindergarten program, adding one grade a year.

Later on, the partnership plans to add retail space and build two residential towers on the site.

“By Bright Hope being involved in this project,” Johnson said, “it is really our extending a hand to Temple to begin anew.”

 

Contact staff writer Jennifer Lin at 215-854-5659 or jlin@phillynews.com.

Middle school to reopen, but for different uses

PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, July 8, 2009

Classrooms are dusty and empty, halls silent. But reminders of student days at John Wanamaker Middle School at 12th Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue are everywhere.

Artwork on yellowing paper lines the walls of a dark auditorium. Smudged chalk notes cover blackboards. Gymnastic rings hang at the ready.

Closed four years ago, the Wanamaker School in North Philadelphia is set to come back to life, but with an unusual new mix of uses – apartments for Temple University students, a charter school, a training center, a community hub for neighbors.

The $250 million project, which City Council approved last month, is a partnership between the nonprofit development arm of Bright Hope Baptist Church and the Goldenberg Group, a Blue Bell-based developer.

With Temple’s main campus next door, the Wanamaker property had been sought by many developers, including the university itself. The Bright Hope-Goldenberg partners paid the school district $10.75 million for the nearly five-acre site.

Renovations could begin next spring, with the first student apartments available in the fall of 2011.

The Rev. Kevin R. Johnson, senior pastor of Bright Hope, which sits across the street from the Wanamaker School, called the hybrid use of the building “revolutionary.”

“It’s something that not only needs to be done,” Johnson said, “but should have been done a long time ago.”

Temple’s explosive growth in recent years has strained relations between the university community and the surrounding neighborhoods.

Enrollment has jumped 60 percent in the last decade, to about 26,000 undergraduates. Today, roughly 40 percent of them, or about 11,000 students, request nearby housing. But with just 4,500 dorm rooms, Temple can guarantee on-campus housing for only the first two years – a policy change made in 2004 in response to rising enrollment, said Michael Scales, Temple’s associate vice president of student affairs.

The presence of more and more students in the neighborhoods is not without problems.

Residents of Yorktown, an enclave of suburban-style single homes on the south side of Cecil B. Moore, have complained about late-night parties, dwindling parking, and absentee landlords who fill single-family homes with students.

Colin Jones, an executive vice president for the Goldenberg Group, said the new Wanamaker Center was an attempt to “marry Temple’s needs, ours, and the community’s.”

“You have to have community support,” Jones said. “Otherwise the project’s not going to be a success.”

Like many universities, Temple is not building dorms but relying on the private market to provide space. In recent years, developers have converted buildings or constructed residences to house 3,000 students.

Projects now in the works would make available another 3,000 beds. While the size and configuration of student apartments vary, the average cost for a student is anywhere from $650 to $750 a month.

Bart Blatstein, who developed the Edge at Avenue North near 15th Street and Cecil B. Moore, is planning a second apartment project next door with 1,100 beds.

The Philadelphia School District closed the Wanamaker School in 2005. It was used briefly after Hurricane Katrina to house displaced families from New Orleans but has been empty since then.

The first phase calls for converting the north side of the building into seven floors of housing for about 600 students.

As part of that, Jones said, the Goldenberg Group will abide by a 1997 consent decree between the school district and the Environmental Protection Agency to remove a limited area of contamination from polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, in a generator room. “We’re used to dealing with this,” Jones said.

The south side of the Wanamaker School will be reserved for community uses. Although those plans are still in the works, they ideally will include a charter school, a “green technology” training center, and other space for community uses, Johnson of Bright Hope said. He envisions “an empowerment village” that raises the educational level of children and adults from the area.

Through its nonprofit community development corporation, the church is looking at possible models for a kindergarten-through-12th-grade charter school. Johnson said he would like to start small with a kindergarten program, adding one grade a year.

Later on, the partnership plans to add retail space and build two residential towers on the site.

“By Bright Hope being involved in this project,” Johnson said, “it is really our extending a hand to Temple to begin anew.”

The Carriage Homes at Haverford Reserve Redefines Main Line Living

PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, June 28, 2009

The Goldenberg Group and Guidi Homes proudly present The Carriage Homes at Haverford Reserve, the Main Line’s finest new residential community. Located at 110 Green Lane, about one quarter mile from the intersection of Darby Road and Parkview Drive in Haverford, PA The Carriage Homes feature 100 beautifully-crafted residences bordering 124 acres of preserved woodlands, mature trees, and beautiful landscaping, with miles of trails and other passive and active recreational facilities.

As a reflection of the quality of the concept, design and development team, Philadelphia Magazine has selected The Carriage Homes at Haverford Reserve to be the Magazine’s 2009 Design Home. The homes will be open for public tours from September 10 through October 11, with all proceeds benefiting Philadelphia’s Ronald McDonald House. In celebration of that honor, the developer is offering extraordinary incentives for agreements of sale signed by July 31, 2009.

“We set out to redefine upscale, Main Line living, infusing luxurious living with nature and natural elements,” said David Mercuris, Vice President of Development for The Goldenberg Group. “We’ve capitalized on a spectacular site – green expanses in close proximity to Center City – to create a sense of community and deliver the best of both worlds to our buyers.”

Located in the heart of the Main Line, The Carriage Homes at Haverford Reserve offer a special quality of life in a village of European styled carriage homes. Set in a serene, park-like setting, the residences are only minutes from the finest shopping, entertainment and dining in the region, with convenient access to world-class cultural and historic offerings in nearby Center City Philadelphia. Recreational and social amenities abound, with some of the region’s finest golf courses and clubs in close proximity to the site.

Inside The Carriage Homes, award-winning design firms Michael Visich Architects and Murphy Architectural Group carried out a vision for six elegant home designs, ranging from 3,300-3,840 square feet. Building on best-in-class structural design, and energy-efficient HVAC, electrical and plumbing systems all residences will feature exquisite interior finishes, spacious master suites, luxurious baths and gourmet kitchens, plus maintenance-free exteriors. Two designs, the Treymore and the Haverlyn, offer master suite down options for convenient one floor living. An extensive list of options will allow purchasers to customize their homes to meet their exacting standards.

“We’re offering purchasers an opportunity to simplify their lifestyle without sacrificing any of the quality, luxury and amenities they’ve grown used to,” continued Mercuris. “All exterior maintenance, including snow removal, irrigation, and landscape maintenance will be handled by the owner’s association, giving our residents much more time to do the things they enjoy with friends and family.”

Haverford Reserve was designed to incorporate the best principles of sustainable design and construction. The Carriage Homes have been designed, and will built in such a way as to reduce negative impacts on the natural environment, reduce waste, improve the built environment and benefit the builder, the homeowner and the general public. In addition, each purchaser will have the ability to add energy efficient systems and components through the sustainability options that will be offered.

“With The Carriage Homes, we’re setting a new standard for Main Line living,” said Brad Guidi, a third generation Guidi family builder. “We’ve worked extremely hard to combine exceptional design, highest-quality construction and sensitive land planning for a residential offering unlike any other in the region.”

The Carriage Homes at Haverford Reserve are the product of a remarkable partnership. With more than 20 years’ experience developing large-scale, complex projects, The Goldenberg Group is respected for being among the region’s most dynamic, creative and talented real estate developers. Guidi Homes is a proud family enterprise that spans six decades and is recognized as one of the area’s premier builders, and recipient of numerous awards for excellence in design and craftsmanship.

The sales center for The Carriage Homes at Haverford Reserve is open seven days a week, from noon to 5:00 p.m. Long and Foster is the exclusive sales agent for The Carriage Homes. For more information or to schedule an appointment for a tour, please call 610.526.9800, or visit www.haverfordreserve.com.

Preliminary OK for Off-Campus Housing Project Near Temple

KYW NEWSRADIO, June 14, 2009

City Council this past week gave a preliminary thumbs-up to a quarter-billion dollar project in North Philadelphia that will include some much-needed off-campus housing for Temple University students.

The $250-million complex will be built at 12th Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue, site of what is now the old John Wanamaker School, which closed back in the ’80s. Colin Jones with the Goldenberg Group, the developer, says the project will include much more than student housing:

“We would have a green technology center, a charter school, an arts and education foundation and we will have approximately 800 residential units.”

This is a joint venture with the neighboring Bright Hope Baptist Church, which plans to open a charter school there. Most of the student housing will be in a new 14-story tower, and Jones hopes for ground breaking by next spring.

The Goldenberg Group and Ironwood Property Group Put Finishing Touches on $75m Retail Center

MID ATLANTIC REAL ESTATE JOURNAL, June 12, 2009

Exeter Commons, Berks County’s most exciting new retail destination, is progressing ahead of schedule, with some of the nation’s top retailers opening their doors in late summer 2009. Located at the intersection of Business Route 422, Bypass Route 422 and 47th street, Exeter Commons will bring 490,000 square feet of first-class retail offerings to the region. Two of the shopping center’s anchor stores, Target and Giant Foods, are scheduled to open in late July, with the grand opening of Lowe’s to follow in August 2009.

The $75 million power retail center is being developed by Exeter JV Associates, LP, a partnership of The Goldenberg Group and Ironwood Property Group.

“Exeter Commons has been a high-development priority for Exeter Township for more than 10 years,” said Kevin Trapper, Senior Vice President of The Goldenberg Group. “A number of national developers were thwarted by seemingly insurmountable technical and traffic obstacles. All of us at The Goldenberg Group and Ironwood are proud of our ability to overcome those challenges. We’re moving in major tenants now, and we look forward to completing this vibrant retail center in 2009.”

The largest shopping center in Exeter Township, Exeter Commons will offer a dynamic mix of tenants, including three national retailers. Target is currently under construction on a 132,000 square foot store, to open in late July along with a mega 81,000 square foot Giant Foods store.

August marks the planned opening of a 171,000 square foot Lowe’s home improvement store, and a 1,600 square foot SONIC Drive-In. Exeter Commons will also feature Wells Fargo/Wachovia, Red Robin, Chick-Fil-A and Affinity Bank, among others..

“In this challenging economic environment, retailers are seeking only the best locations. Exeter Commons is a strategic site that promises to be one of the premier shopping centers in Berks County,” said Ironwood principal Jeremy Fogel. “We’re excited about bringing these great retailers to the area, and offering them the opportunity to continue to expand their customer base and make their selection, value and customer service as convenient to customers as possible.”

The Goldenberg Group, based in Blue Bell, PA, and Ironwood Property Group, out of Conshohocken, formed a unique partnership in Spring 2008 to redevelop 50 acres of land along Route 422, in Exeter’s commercial corridor. They built a cooperative coalition of tenants and stakeholders, working tirelessly with the Berks County Conservation District, Exeter Township, PennDOT, the community and members of the public sector to enhance the county’s retail offerings. Together, they came up with a plan to implement and finance traffic and roadway improvements in excess of $15 million.

“The joint venture worked effectively with the Township, County and State officials to gain consensus on the project, obtain permits and approvals, and secure significant public funding to allow the project to come to fruition,” said Mark Scott, Chairman of the Berks County Commissioners. State Senator Michael O’Pake, whose support was critical to securing state assistance, echoed Scott’s comments, lauding the developers’ spirit of cooperation.

One of the fastest-growing counties in Pennsylvania, Berks County is located in the heart of the Delaware Valley, which boasts some of the leading industrial and trade complexes in the nation. When complete, Exeter Commons will be a strong asset to the area, and potentially a powerful catalyst for additional redevelopment.

Developers: Exeter Commons work ahead of schedule

THE MERCURY, May 16, 2009

Work on a shopping center that will include Target, Giant and Lowe’s stores on the site of the former Dutch Colony hotel is ahead of schedule by two and a half weeks, according to a spokeswoman for the developers.

Some of the stores in the Exeter Commons shopping center are slated to open in July, and others a month later, per a news release from Exeter JV Associates. The partnership, which formed in 2008 to redevelop the 50-acre site includes developers The Goldenberg Group and Ironwood Property Group.

The 490,000-square-foot retail center, which developers say will be the largest of its kind in the township, is located on Route 422 at the intersection of Business Route 422 and 47th Street.

Two of the center’s anchor stores, The 132,000-square-foot Target store and the 81,000-square-foot Giant Food store, are scheduled to open in late July, with the grand opening of the 171,000-square-foot Lowe’s to follow in August 2009, per the release.

“Exeter Commons has been a high-development priority for Exeter Township for more than 10 years,” said Kevin Trapper, senior vice president of Blue Bell based The Goldenberg Group. “A number of national developers were thwarted by seemingly insurmountable technical and traffic obstacles. All of us at The Goldenberg Group and Ironwood are proud of our ability to overcome those challenges. We’re moving in major tenants now, and we look forward to completing this vibrant retail center in 2009.”

Exeter Commons will also include a SONIC Drive-In, Wells Fargo/Wachovia bank, Red Robin restaurant, Chick-Fil-A and Affinity Bank.

“Exeter Commons is a strategic site that promises to be one of the premier shopping centers in Berks County,” said Jeremy Fogel, principal of Conshohocken based Ironwood. “We’re excited about bringing these great retailers to the area, and offering them the opportunity to continue to expand their customer base and make their selection, value and customer service as convenient to customers as possible.”

According to Mark Scott, chairman of the Berks County Board of Commissioners, the project came to fruition through a cooperative coalition built by the Goldenberg Group and Ironwood Property Group with tenants and stakeholders, who worked with township officials, the Berks County Conservation District, PennDOT, the community and members of the public.

“The joint venture worked effectively with the township, county and state officials to gain consensus on the project, obtain permits and approvals, and secure significant public funding to allow the project to come to fruition,” said Scott said.

Developers: Exeter Commons work ahead of schedule

THE MERCURY, May 16, 2009

Work on a shopping center that will include Target, Giant and Lowe’s stores on the site of the former Dutch Colony hotel is ahead of schedule by two and a half weeks, according to a spokeswoman for the developers.

Some of the stores in the Exeter Commons shopping center are slated to open in July, and others a month later, per a news release from Exeter JV Associates. The partnership, which formed in 2008 to redevelop the 50-acre site includes developers The Goldenberg Group and Ironwood Property Group.

The 490,000-square-foot retail center, which developers say will be the largest of its kind in the township, is located on Route 422 at the intersection of Business Route 422 and 47th Street.

Two of the center’s anchor stores, The 132,000-square-foot Target store and the 81,000-square-foot Giant Food store, are scheduled to open in late July, with the grand opening of the 171,000-square-foot Lowe’s to follow in August 2009, per the release.

“Exeter Commons has been a high-development priority for Exeter Township for more than 10 years,” said Kevin Trapper, senior vice president of Blue Bell based The Goldenberg Group. “A number of national developers were thwarted by seemingly insurmountable technical and traffic obstacles. All of us at The Goldenberg Group and Ironwood are proud of our ability to overcome those challenges. We’re moving in major tenants now, and we look forward to completing this vibrant retail center in 2009.”

Exeter Commons will also include a SONIC Drive-In, Wells Fargo/Wachovia bank, Red Robin restaurant, Chick-Fil-A and Affinity Bank.

“Exeter Commons is a strategic site that promises to be one of the premier shopping centers in Berks County,” said Jeremy Fogel, principal of Conshohocken based Ironwood. “We’re excited about bringing these great retailers to the area, and offering them the opportunity to continue to expand their customer base and make their selection, value and customer service as convenient to customers as possible.”

According to Mark Scott, chairman of the Berks County Board of Commissioners, the project came to fruition through a cooperative coalition built by the Goldenberg Group and Ironwood Property Group with tenants and stakeholders, who worked with township officials, the Berks County Conservation District, PennDOT, the community and members of the public.

“The joint venture worked effectively with the township, county and state officials to gain consensus on the project, obtain permits and approvals, and secure significant public funding to allow the project to come to fruition,” said Scott said.

Retail projects expected to provide economic boom in Exeter Township

READING EAGLE, May 9, 2009

Recession aside, an economic boom is taking shape in a 2-mile stretch of Exeter Township.

Stores in the Exeter Commons shopping center along Perkiomen Avenue are scheduled to begin opening in July, and just down the road, Wal-Mart is nearly doubling its size to become one of the chain’s supercenters.

The two retail sites are expected to bring 800 to 920 jobs to the area.

Exeter officials say the new retail centers could attract even more commercial development.

“We’re very excited about it,” said Troy S. Bingaman, township manager. “I think our residents are going to see a huge benefit.”

Exeter Commons is under construction on 44 acres off Perkiomen Avenue (Route 422) at 47th Street. Target, Lowe’s and Giant stores will anchor the center, which will have 10 other businesses.

The center required $15 million in road improvements, which should be completed before Memorial Day, Bingaman said.

Just over a mile east on Perkiomen Avenue, Wal-Mart is expanding from 114,513 square feet to nearly 215,000. The supercenter will have groceries, a garden center and a tire and auto center.

A Weis grocery store was razed to make room for the expanded Wal-Mart. Company officials have said the building will be ready in July and that the expansion would add up to 200 workers.

Pat J. Adamczyk, administrator at CareerLink Berks County, said it’s a plus for Berks to have stores that are opening and hiring.

The retail, banking and restaurant jobs present a good opportunity to learn customer service skills, Adamczyk said.

“They are fine jobs for some parts of the populations who need to work part time,” she said. “Retail jobs offer a career ladder.”

Exeter Commons is ahead of schedule with 97 percent of the space leased, said Jeremy P. Fogel, president of Ironwood Property Group Inc.

The center’s developer is Exeter JV Associates, a partnership of Ironwood and The Goldenberg Group, both based in Montgomery County.

Target is expected to open in late July; the other tenants will soon follow, Fogel said.

Circuit City had signed a lease for Exeter Commons, but developers terminated that agreement about the time the electronics retailer filed for bankruptcy.

No other tenants have dropped out.

In a down market, other projects are struggling, but Exeter Commons is in a great location, Fogel said.

“It’s the hole in the doughnut. The demand stays strong,” he said. “We’re very excited about this project.”

James M. Mitich, vice president of operations for Lehigh Valley Restaurant Group, Allentown, also stressed the importance of the center’s location. The franchise group, which owns 16 Red Robin restaurants in Pennsylvania, searched the Reading area for about six years looking for the right spot for a Red Robin.

“I think Exeter is a great opportunity,” he said. “It’s a growing area even in this dismal economy.”