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Laughner Patel boldly tackles commercial developmentMedical arts building is firm's first project

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Superintendent Tom Bowman, center, with Wormleysburg-based Pyramid Construction Services Inc., meets with developers Bob Laughner, left, and Mayur Patel at the Capital Medical Center work site in Dauphin County. This is the first joint project for developers Laughner and Patel. The project is slated to open in October with 100 percent occupancy. Photo/Amy Spangler
Superintendent Tom Bowman, center, with Wormleysburg-based Pyramid Construction Services Inc., meets with developers Bob Laughner, left, and Mayur Patel at the Capital Medical Center work site in Dauphin County. This is the first joint project for developers Laughner and Patel. The project is slated to open in October with 100 percent occupancy. Photo/Amy Spangler

Seeing light at the end of the tunnel for the regional economy, a Lower Paxton Township-based commercial real estate development firm entered the fray in fall 2010 poised to release some of the pent-up demand.

The first project for Laughner Patel Developers, a joint venture launched by Mayur Patel and Bob Laughner, broke ground three months ago on Capital Drive in Susquehanna Township. Meanwhile, the duo is aggressively

pursuing other development possibilities across Central Pennsylvania.

"There are some pockets of opportunities," said Patel, who previously worked on real estate deals, including large hotel projects, as general counsel for Harrisburg-based Hersha Group of Companies. "Now is the time to be creative and innovative, so when the economy does jump into full recovery, you're poised to take advantage."

Patel and Laughner, who was a project manager at the Wormleysburg-based Anchor Organization, spent a year overseeing the design and necessary approvals to get the $8 million Capital Medical Center started.

By October, the 24,000-square-foot medical arts building will be home to Harrisburg-based Schein Ernst Eye Associates and Stratis Gayner Plastic Surgery. The facility also will include an outpatient medical and surgical care center and podiatry practice.

"We quarterback every aspect of the project, so details involving financing, site acquisition, design, construction, (government approvals) — we oversee all the details," Patel said.

Laughner Patel's business model is centered on design-build project delivery, where one company assembles the team of architects and builders to work on a project. The design-build firm is involved in every aspect of
the development process.

By overseeing the project from start to finish, the partners said they believe they can find savings that wouldn't be found in a typical development process. The design-build method allows for more flexibility and is more fluid for the owner, Patel said.

"We can get them the information they need in a clear decision matrix (so) that they can quickly make well-informed decisions," Laughner said.

In 2010, more than 40 percent of projects nationally used design-build, a 10 percent increase since 2005, according to a study performed by Georgia-based Reed Construction Data for the Design-Build Institute of America.

The cost savings are found by keeping a project on the rails and moving forward, Laughner said. Vetting and assembling the right pieces, such as an experienced architect who has done 30 ambulatory surgery centers, also gives the developer a better handle on planning and executing the project on time and on budget, he said.

In addition to acting as the owner's representative for a client to own or lease a building, Laughner Patel also has its own holdings that its principals said they plan to develop.

Moving forward, the partners said they are focusing primarily on projects in Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster and York counties — from medical and commercial office space to retail and industrial projects, both big and small.

They have five projects in the pipeline across the region, Patel said. Those preliminary deals include:

  • New medical facility for a group of private-practice doctors.
  • New retail location for a financial institution.
  • Headquarters relocation for a Central Pennsylvania technology company.
  • New office space for a local law firm.
  • Retail commercial development as part of a master plan being created through an assemblage of properties.

All of those projects would be new construction.

Following the downturn in the economy, businesses retooled their operations to get more efficient. Laughner and Patel said they started this business with that in mind and plan to continue tailoring their approach to economic conditions.

"Operating in this economy requires tremendous efficiency and innovation without sacrificing quality," Laughner said.

Historically low-interest rates should give companies planning to build the predictability they need to pull the trigger on a project, he said.

"Banks tell us they have a lot of capital," Patel said. "We want to find ways to allow banks to deploy that capital."

In focus

Bob Laughner

Age: 41

Residence: Lemoyne

Education: Bachelor's degree in management information systems from Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Employment: Worked as project manager of medical office development for the Anchor Organization, based in Wormleysburg. Also owns Lemoyne-based RJL Properties, a residential and commercial real estate development and holdings firm.

Area of expertise: Coordinated facility design, construction, scheduling and budgeting of commercial office and specialty medical developments.

Mayur Patel

Age: 37

Residence: Lower Paxton Township

Education: Juris doctor from Villanova University School of Law

Employment: Worked as general counsel for Harrisburg-based hotel group Hersha Group of Companies.

Area of expertise: Completed more than 100 real estate and financial transactions as well as overseeing the development of projects, ranging from hotels to commercial office buildings and multifamily residences.

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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 jscott@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @JScottJournal. Circle Jason Scott on .

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