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Redevelopment summit on tap in Dauphin County

Countywide strategy could spark long-term wave of investment, officials say

By - Last modified: October 31, 2011 at 2:28 PM

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Hoping to mitigate the challenges developers often face and reinvigorate the local economy, Dauphin County next week will roll out its first comprehensive redevelopment strategy.

Rather than continue to build primarily upon undeveloped land, county officials last year decided the best way to pull out of the down climate was to engage all municipal leaders in a countywide smart growth effort.

The result is a list of 100 key redevelopment areas that with limited municipal barriers could be turned back into revenue-generating sites and help maintain community viability, Commissioner George Hartwick III said.

"This is only way to plan for smart growth in the future and keep our communities from suburban sprawl," he said.

A public unveiling of the redevelopment strategy will take place Oct. 31 at Fort Hunter Mansion and Park in Susquehanna Township. The Dauphin County Redevelopment Authority has invited more than 160 developers from across Central Pennsylvania and others from outside of the commonwealth to attend the summit, said Amy Richards, a spokeswoman for the county commissioners.

The goal of the event and the list, which will be available online, is to provide developers with a one-stop shop for information on sites and corridors that may meet their criteria, officials said.

Developers will be able to view everything from the size and potential uses of the sites to property valuations, utilities and a market profile. If a parcel is in a Keystone Opportunity Zone, for example, it will be noted, Richards said.

Along with making the process easier for investment, the authority also is able to pull together resources, including financing options and tax incentives, that many small communities cannot, Hartwick said.

Studying the possibility of clustering properties in economic redevelopment zones and working to get tools in place — such as tax increment financing, tax abatement under the state's Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance program or a KOZ — will help market the sites, the commissioner said.

"We need to create public-private partnerships," said August "Skip" Memmi, executive director of the Dauphin County Department of Community and Economic Development.

Under a TIF arrangement, each entity in that district would forgo most of the property tax revenue for a specified time period to finance bonds issued to the developer for necessary public improvements.

Lower Allen Township-based Smith Land & Improvement Corp. is in the process of obtaining a 15-year TIF district for its proposed $140 million Swatara Plaza at The Concourse, a 164-acre mixed-use retail and office park on Route 322 in Swatara Township.

The township and the Central Dauphin School District have voted to opt into the district. The developer has not yet submitted the TIF resolution to Dauphin County, but that is expected this winter.

The proposed $10 million TIF is critical to the project coming to fruition, the developer has said. The state Department of Transportation is requiring the developer to make 
$22 million in offsite road, sewer and water improvements along the 
Route 322 corridor.

The KOZ, like the Lerta program, is a state-sanctioned tax incentive, usually for 10 years, that exempts developers and property owners from most city and state taxes in KOZ-defined areas.

Top 100

Notable projects on the list, which was developed over the last year with Hampden Township-based Delta Development Group Inc., include the planned historic rehabilitation of the former Lykens Hotel and two other downtown properties.

Home Leasing LLC, a Rochester, N.Y.-based developer, is planning to spend $13 million to create 43 apartments and retail space in the hotel property on Main Street, a former drug store property across the street and a former school building on North Second Street.

The developer is applying for low-income and historic tax credits, cleanup grants and authority financing, said Cheryl Stulpin, the company's vice president of development.

Purchase of the properties could be completed by April, with a renovation start slated for July. The project is expected to be finished by December 2013.

Also on the list is the redevelopment of Adams Street in Steelton, which dates to 2005. Utilizing an authority grant of $505,000 and about $500,000 in county Community Development Block Grant money, the borough has developed a site ready for a 10-unit townhouse community, said Doug Brown, borough manager.

The development site, which could be expanded to include three additional properties, is within The New Steelton economic development zone, where a mixed-used town center development is planned.

Dauphin County officials said the list should generate renewed interest in difficult sites and get properties back in productive use and on the local tax rolls.

"If we get two to three wins in the next 18 months, that's a good start," Hartwick said, adding that other viable projects should start to come online. "It may not be in the short term."

The commissioners also hope to see the comprehensive model serve as a catalyst for neighboring counties, he said.

Following Dauphin County's lead is appealing to Cumberland County, said Kirk Stoner, director of planning.

Over the next year, the planning office is planning to compile an inventory of brownfield sites across Cumberland County in hope of better marketing redevelopment opportunities to the private sector, Stoner said.

A brownfield may be a blighted or underused industrial or commercial property. These sites are usually associated with environmental contamination that has the potential to be reused once it is cleaned up.

"If we can do some of the front work for (developers), they may be more apt to come here," Stoner said.

If you go

The Dauphin County Redevelopment Authority will hold a developer summit from 1 to 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 31 at the Fort Hunter Mansion and Park, 5300 N. Front St. in Susquehanna Township.

Jason Scott

Jason Scott

Jason Scott covers state government, real estate and construction, media and marketing, and Dauphin County. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at jasons@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @JScottJournal. Circle Jason Scott on .

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