new Arby’s is set to open in Lower Macungie Township with a unique venue.
Township commissioners unanimously approved the final plan for Arby’s to move in to an old farmhouse on Hamilton Boulevard.
“This house was built in 1850. You didn’t have to keep it but you are,” board President Ronald W. Beitler told the developers at the June 21 commissioners meeting. “This is a special project and I appreciate the work you’ve done to preserve the building.”
The farmhouse is on a strip of land that includes the addresses 5329, 5347 and 5357 Hamilton Blvd. Hamilton Crossings is located directly behind it, giving it quick access to shoppers.
NB Crossings LLC’s plan aligns with the 2015 Hamilton Boulevard corridor study, which states “historic preservation can be an important tool to ensure that these valuable resources retain their character even as the transportation infrastructure and land use context around them change and modernize.”
Dave Bhasin, NB Crossings managing owner and Arby’s franchisee, said the Arby’s will look to be a deli-style restaurant rather than the typical fast-food chains.
Keeping the original structure of the 1850s-era stone farmhouse will come at a cost, however. The fast casual restaurant will still have a drive-thru, which Assistant Planning Director Nathan Jones said will be in the back of the building to avoid traffic build up onto Hamilton Boulevard.
Engineer Bud Newton said after putting in “a lot of time and effort,” they found they could reuse elements of the old building.
He predicted the project’s reuse of the old farmhouse would spark a trend for future Hamilton Boulevard development.
Bhasin said there’s a “substantial difference” between the elevations of the first floor in the farmhouse and the floor in the Arby’s addition.
“We decided we’re going to remove the first floor altogether and build the basement up to the same level as the Arby’s so there are no steps involved,” he said.
He added that this construction will allow the restrooms to remain on the first floor, while the second floor of the original farmhouse can be kept for “mezzanine-level” seating.
The trend-setting concept comes at a price, Bhasin said. He estimated it added 30 to 40 percent to the restaurant project.
“This certainly will be the most unique Arby’s,” Bhasin said. “And the most expensive.”
Beitler said he hopes this restaurant style can contribute to the “feel of a Main Street” the township wants for Hamilton Boulevard.
“We’re losing [farmhouses] pretty rapidly and we’re interested in preserving them,” Beitler said.
The commissioners approved the final plan with waivers for NB Crossings to maintain tree and landscaping runoff conditions.
Township engineer Alan Fornwalt said the developers have a financial commitment to provide more landscaping in the future barring the trees and mulching don’t disturb the neighboring properties.
Now that the final plan has been approved, Newton said construction will start as soon as possible. He hopes the Arby’s can open by the end of the year.