Developer says 'Hagerstown has it'
Sora Development has expressed interest in downtown redevelopment project
This artist's rendering, found on Sora Development's website, shows an aerial view of the planned $300 million Rowan Boulevard redevelopment project in Glassboro, N.J., that serves as a connection between the rapidly growing Rowan University and Glassboro's historic downtown business district. The project, which began in 2009 and includes plans for several mixed-use buildings, student housing facilities and multitier parking garages, is expected to boost the local economy by nearly $50 million annually when it's completed, according to Sora officials. (Submitted photo / January 19, 2013)
The Rowan Boulevard project is approaching its midway point, Cordona estimated, with a Courtyard by Marriott hotel and an academic building with a connecting parking garage that the university leases from Sora both set to open next fall.
Other mixed-use buildings and a community park will be completed in later phases, he said.
When the Glassboro project is complete, it is expected to draw more than 125 new retail stores, infusing more than $225 million annually, according to Sora estimates when the project began in 2009.
The $300 million project is 100 percent privately funded, excluding a $3 million contribution from the New Jersey Department of Transportation for the construction of Rowan Boulevard and an additional $1 million from Rowan for pre-construction expenses, according to Sora’s project fact sheet.
“Now, the pieces start coming together and people get excited,” Cordona said. “... Glassboro was able to redevelop an area that desperately needed it. Now, that roadway connects to that historic downtown and, slowly but surely, that historic downtown is getting reinvested in.”
Since 2006, Glassboro and Rowan have worked with Sora, under the direction of principals Tom Fore and Greg Filipek, according to a story published in the Gloucester County Times in April 2012.
The newspaper at that time reported that Sora had successfully completed more than $100 million in new construction projects along Rowan Boulevard, including the 884-bed student housing complex, a 36,000-square-foot Barnes and Noble collegiate superstore and the 165,000-square-foot mixed-use Whitney Center, which has 21,800 square feet of retail space, 280 beds for honors student housing and 10,000 square feet of classroom space.
The team of Kinsley Construction and Fore Development broke ground in late summer 2012 on the new Marriott hotel, restaurant and conference center, completing the north section of the full master plan envisioned by the team, the newspaper reported.
Further development, as reported by the newspaper, is beginning to shift onto the shoulders of other private developers and using fewer public entity partnerships.
“One of the reasons this has been so successful is that we included Rowan, business owners and community members when making decisions,” Joe Brigandi, borough administrator of Glassboro, told the newspaper then.
“One of the main reasons we’re doing this project is to bring the existing downtown closer to Rowan and fill in the retail gaps for the university community and residents,” Brigandi was quoted as saying. “It’s very important to myself and the governing body that the existing downtown grows with this.”
Eyeing Hagerstown as a potential location for a similar project, Elliott and his partners laid out how a public-private partnership investment model could work during their Jan. 15 presentation.
A public-private partnership, Elliott said at the presentation, relies heavily on private investment and public involvement as both sides develop a vision for a particular project, which is typically a long-term venture with numerous self-sustaining phases that build on one another.
He outlined the model for such a partnership:
• Through planning meetings, core development areas have to be identified and then both parties determine their common goals and objectives.
• Partnering with the master development team, like Sora’s group, a market analysis would be completed to identify costs, funding requirements and potential return on investment.
• Phasing models and methods of implementation would be the next step, as well as determining risks and ways to mitigate them should glitches in the original plan arise.