Hagerstown officials looking at construction vs. renovation for former Susquehanna Bank property
Conceptual drawings, prepared by Bushey Feight Morin Architects LLC of Hagerstown, depicting what the BOE offices could look like situated between Washington County Circuit Court and the Potomac Bead Company building at 53 W. Washington St. (Bushey Feight Morin Architects Inc. / March 9, 2013)
More specifically, the city wants to purchase and demolish the former Susquehanna Bank property at 55-57-59 W. Washington St. and the current Columbia Bank properties at 81 and 83 W. Washington St. to make way for new construction of the BOE’s administrative offices, Mayor David S. Gysberts said Thursday.
“We’re not looking to rehab those buildings,” Gysberts said, noting that the city wants to maintain some level of control over the design of new construction regardless of any developer who undertakes it.
“The details yet to be worked out are how the site is actually developed, and whether that’s a partnership between the city and the board of education to acquire a developer,” he said.
After the properties are acquired by the city, Gysberts said, the plan would be to turn them over “on the cheap” in order to entice competition among developers who would want to take on the task of construction.
“Whether that’s (Peter) Perini or Sora or any other developer, obviously the more competition there is, the better to drive down the cost,” Gysberts said.
Who will develop it?
Exactly what development entity would take on the school system’s facility build, at this point, is unknown, according to city officials.
Perini, a local developer, told the school board this past week that he was interested in developing a building in downtown Hagerstown to house multiple tenants, including the school system’s central offices.
Sora Development, a Towson, Md.-based real estate development firm, along with several others in an out-of-the-area group of investors, has expressed interest in developing a master redevelopment plan for the city, which could include building a new BOE facility.
The city signed a nonbinding and nonexclusive agreement Friday with a real estate investment group that includes Sora Development and Skanska Construction. The group is represented by local attorney D. Bruce Poole and Dane Bauer of the engineering firm Daft McCune Walker.
The group requested five weeks to meet with city stakeholders and develop projects that would meet the goals of those stakeholders as well as the city in its revitalization efforts.
“Not only will they be putting together all these different stakeholders in that unit block ... Washington, Potomac, Summit and Antietam, but it would also be working their connections at the state level because of this state money that’s supposedly out there,” Gysberts said.
When asked if the city selecting a proposed site for the BOE potentially could interfere with whatever plan the group might roll out in the next few months, Hagerstown City Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire said it would not, indicating the city would be in the “driver’s seat” for that type of decision-making.
No real discussions about the West Washington Street site have taken place to date, Aleshire said.
“I don’t think (it interferes) because I don’t think you could define on paper what the plan will be or what driving factors or parties will be part of it,” he said.
In terms of planning on the city’s end, Gysberts said not a whole lot can happen in those five weeks anyway, but discussions will be ongoing with property owners and interested developers in an attempt to create competition for the job.
“The best thing of all worlds would be to have this kind of competition to see who can build this building because I think that’s going to reduce the cost, ultimately,” he said.