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)
Sora’s project models are laid out with an emphasis on sustainability, Elliott said, meaning that each phase feeds off the others.
For example, in Glassboro, one of the first phases after building Rowan Boulevard was to erect the student-housing facilities for the university, which then agreed to enter into a 30-year lease for the structures. That guaranteed income allowed development officials to use that money to leverage construction loans on subsequent phases, which would function in a similar pattern until the project is fully built out over a span of about 10 years.
Elliott said Friday the $300 million Glassboro investment is expected to add up to an aggregate amount of $330 million in total construction costs once its completed, financed in large part by incremental private investments.
“When you deal with that, private investment typically comes in what’s called pre-development, meaning we will pay for architects, engineers, planning studies, legal and land,” Elliott said. “Some land might be public entity-owned, some will be private. If it’s private, we have to buy it. If it’s public, we have to negotiate for the purchase of it.”
The project included bringing in one of the largest Barnes and Noble stores in New Jersey as well as several other retailers. Elliott said securing franchise agreements are heavily contingent upon showing what an area and the future usage will entail.
“Every city is unique in how the planning is set up, but in (Glassboro), we needed to bring bodies and evidence that bodies were there in order to attract retailers, in particular, the hotel,” he said, explaining why the student housing was one of the first aspects addressed.
Other Sora projects
Sora has undertaken other downtown redevelopment projects in areas such as Durham, N.H., Greenville, N.C., and Rock Hill, S.C., Elliott said during the presentation in Hagerstown.
The Greenville project included a downtown redevelopment with new parking decks, hotels, senior housing facilities and a visual and performing arts complex, which complement and connect to nearby university and medical campuses.
Future plans in Greenville call for a town commons area with retail pavilions to be built along the Tar River at the foot of the redone downtown boulevard, Elliott told Hagerstown officials.
Other construction projects completed by Sora in past years include several multimillion-dollar luxury condominium complexes in Ocean City, Md., ranging from $2.1 million to $21 million, according to Sora’s website. The most recent, the Makai Condominiums, was finished in 2008.
Daft, McCune and Walker, or DMW, has extensive experience in providing services to residential developers as well as new and established retirement communities in the mid-Atlantic region, according to the company’s website.
With offices in Baltimore, Frederick, Md., and Berlin, Md., DMW also handles land planning, architecture, civil engineering and environmental services for institutional, corporate and commercial projects.
Dane Bauer, who represented the firm before Hagerstown officials on Jan. 15, said DMW played a major role in a redevelopment project at the Towson Town Center, where a building addition was completed a number of years ago. He said that project has helped spur additional development in the surrounding areas since then.
Other DMW projects include work for the University of Maryland Medical System as well as medical facilities along the Eastern Shore.
Darryl Putty, a development project manager for Baltimore County, which contains the unincorporated community of Towson, said plans and other work submitted by DMW regularly follow all of the required rules, laws and regulations.
On the administrative side of things, Putty said he’s “never had any trouble” working with the firm, which completes a lot of jobs in Baltimore County.
“They’re a pretty reputable firm,” he said. “They do a lot of fine work in the county.”