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New year, new title, new development: Succession plan kicks in for Camp Hill developer

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Richard Jordan II, left, is retiring as chairman of Smith Land & Improvement Corp. His son, Richard Jordan III, CEO, will assume the role of chairman on Jan. 1.
Richard Jordan II, left, is retiring as chairman of Smith Land & Improvement Corp. His son, Richard Jordan III, CEO, will assume the role of chairman on Jan. 1. - (Photo / )

The next chapter in the Jordan family history begins this week.

Richard Jordan III, president and CEO of Camp Hill-based Smith Land & Improvement Corp., assumes the role of chairman, effective Jan. 1, from his father, Richard Jordan II.

The elder Jordan, now 70, has pondered the leadership succession since Dec. 1, 1992. That was the day he took over the company from his father.

He was 44 at the time. His son is now 46 as he becomes chairman of the Cumberland County company, which celebrated 100 years in business in 2018.

Luther B. Smith founded the company in 1918. It now encompasses a commercial real estate corporation and a subsidiary, L.B. Smith Ford Lincoln Inc.

“It has been on the forefront of my mind for 25 years,” Jordan II said in the days leading up to his retirement.

Planning for the leadership transition began to take shape about three years ago, he said. It gathered speed at the beginning of 2018, when his son took over the roles of president and CEO from him.

Jordan III started with the company in 1994, working in L.B. Smith’s heavy equipment division in Florida. Father and son would begin working closer in 2003 when Jordan III moved back to the Harrisburg area and was promoted to vice president, a role in which he worked directly with real estate investment partners and managed leasing operations. He assumed the role of COO in 2015.

“His hands-on experiences have more than prepared him to lead our company into the next exciting chapter of service,” said Jordan II, calling it a special opportunity to lead a family business and an honor to work alongside his son over the years.

Building close to home

The Jordans in front of the construction site of Neighbors & Smith
The Jordans in front of the construction site of Neighbors & Smith - ()

And while that next chapter could soon include dealing with another recession — financial experts are pointing to a 2020 downturn — the Jordans remain bullish about real estate opportunities in the midstate.

In fact, the company is ramping up construction on a commercial project across the street from its Market Street office.

In mid-December, Smith Land kicked off steel construction for the project, dubbed Neighbors & Smith, on the south side of the 1800 block of Market Street.

Jordan III said he expects the new building to be open by April. It replaces the former Nino's Bistro restaurant, which was razed over the summer.

Smith Land acquired the property at 1801 Market St., along with connected properties at 1845, 1847 and 1849 Market Street last December. The redevelopment plan calls for about 40,000 square feet of retail and office space spread across two connected two-story buildings with ground-level retail.

Construction costs have not been disclosed.

The first building will house several boutique businesses that already call the block home. They include Little Black Dress, Body Logic, Underneath It All, One Good Woman, Sweet 504, Molly Bee Toys, Mitrani and Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation.

After the existing tenants are moved into the new space, other structures will be demolished and rebuilt during a second part of the project. Smith Land aims to attract a mix of retail, office and restaurant tenants.

As part of that second phase, which could be completed by next winter, the developer is hoping to attract a restaurant to the corner of the site at South 19th Street.  

Staying prepared

Despite his bullish attitude, Jordan III said the possibility of another recession is always in the back of his mind.

Smith Land doesn’t speculate much and has always tried to be conservative about the number of projects it takes on.

He said he’s learned from his father not to “bite off more than you can chew.” Smith Land also maintains a diversified portfolio of retail, office and industrial properties to spread out real estate risk.

With retail in a state of flux due to the growth of online giants such as Amazon, the company has had to deal with tenant turnover, including the loss of Toys R Us from its Silver Creek Plaza shopping center on the Carlisle Pike. Smith Land is hoping to refill that anchor space this year.

Jordan III said it may seem clichéd, but saving money and making sure existing properties are producing tenant income during good times will help when the market slows again.

“Dad taught me to do the right thing, be truthful and do your best to simplify things,” he said.

Smith Land was able to use the last downturn to tee up other opportunities during the current growth cycle. For example, the company secured approvals from Hampden Township to develop land for the Wentworth Corporate Center off Wertzville Road and Interstate 81. Last year, the company struck a deal with Penn State Health, which is planning to build a new hospital at Wentworth, a 44-acre site in Hampden Township.

Jordan III’s advice for aspiring developers: “Wait for the next downturn for buying opportunities and ramp up in the next upturn. If you capture business at the beginning of an upsweep, stay with it.”

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Jason Scott

Jason Scott

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

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