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)
In public-private arrangements, Skanska primarily works in the transportation field by partnering with governmental bodies to develop sustainable assets and long-term benefits for communities, providing “vital unfunded infrastructure to move people and drive commerce,” the company’s website states.
Chuck Brawley, executive vice president and general manager for Skanska USA, was present with Elliott and Bauer on Jan. 15, noting the company’s extensive experience working on mixed-use and sports construction projects.
Skanska has 39 offices and 9,400 employees throughout its organization, according to the presentation in Hagerstown, with a bonding capacity of $7.5 billion on any particular project.
The company boasts “world-class mixed-use” experience, designing and building structures for parking, retail, offices, conference center and entertainment, including more than a dozen modern stadium complexes.
Plans for Hagerstown?
While no formal go-aheads or agreements have been forged between Sora and Hagerstown, Elliott said he views the Washington County seat as a prime location for developing a regional destination.
Elliott recalled coming to Hagerstown “many, many, many years ago,” and some of the same issues were present, specifically in trying to find an avenue to construct a new stadium for the Hagerstown Suns baseball team.
“I know it’s been a long, long journey at Hagerstown,” he said. “But personally, myself, I’m impressed with the town ... its heritage, its location and its upside. A lot of communities see one side of it, of a community, and I see an exceptional location and great opportunity there, which is why our group is interested.
“But we don’t really have that much to report about just yet.”
Elliott said Sora understands that every city is unique, and the firm’s vision for comprehensive plans on projects take that into account. He describes Sora’s development approach as “more holistic” than others.
“When I look at a town, I look at its heritage and see what other cultural things we can do to bring people from the region,” he said. “It becomes a regional destination, not just a development.”
In creating a master plan for downtown redevelopment, Sora looks at ways of creating bases of employment, housing, culture and retail, and then merging them, Elliott said, taking into account any needed transportation and infrastructure improvements to support new development.
The existing architectural and cultural aspects of Hagerstown, Elliott said, specifically along Potomac Street downtown, create a great starting point for a far-reaching urban renewal project.
“So many towns are trying to replicate (that), but are having difficulty because of the expense of constructing the beautiful architecture,” Elliott said. “But (Hagerstown has) it. ... And I believe Hagerstown, in my opinion, is a perfect example of where it has retained its architectural heritage and character.”