County seeing more apartment units in planning

County seeing more apartment projects in planning

January 27, 2013
The developer's rendering of a 380-unit apartment building that will be built adjacent to Town Center in Southpointe II. Horizon Properties, lead developer in Southpointe II, is overseeing the project.

For many people, a house is not a home. They may not prefer one or may not find one that suits them well, size- and location-wise.

For an increasing number living or moving into Washington County, apartment living is the place to be.

The county population is expanding, and so is the workforce, thanks largely, of course, to the burgeoning energy industry. Apartments of various sizes, comfort levels and rents are being sought.

David Biafora is among those striving to satisfy that demand.

Biafora, a developer with Metro Property Management, is almost as familiar with the county’s stretch of Route 19 as he is with the section near his offices in Morgantown, W.Va. He is spearheading the development of the two-tiered Park Place at Maedow Lands project that is in North Strabane and South Strabane townships.

Part I construction has begun and part II is still being planned for the mixed-use project, which is mostly in North Strabane. It is just east of Route 19 near the intersection with Racetrack Road.

Part II will include a 200-unit apartment complex. Late last month, Metro Property Management wrapped up the purchase of more than 30 acres on which to build the structures.

“The new site is north of Park Place I. There is good visibility there,” said Biafora, whose family owns Metro Property, which owns and operates apartments in locations throughout West Virginia.

Preliminary work – studies, permits – will be done before the company can go to township officials for approval on that phase of the project. Biafora is hoping to house tenants there in 2013.

“We’re hoping to be moving dirt by midyear and have something done by the end,” he said.

Biafora said the units will have one, two or three bedrooms, and range in size from 600 to 1,500 square feet and amenities. Some will have finer finishes, a one-car garage and/or a fireplace; some will not.

Depending on the units, rents will run from $800 or $900 to $1,400. Biafora said that because Metro will build and manage the apartments, they will price them less than some other competitors,

“There is a need for our price range,” he said.

There is a need for other apartments in Washington County, and that will be alleviated when the 380-unit complex is completed in Southpointe II in Cecil Township. That may take more than a year, though. Site work has been completed, but construction will not begin until spring and the target for renting the initial units is spring 2014. GMH Capital Partners of Newtown Square, Delaware County, will be doing the work.

Michael Swisher, principal for Horizon Properties, the lead developer of Southpointe II, said construction of the apartments will be done in phases. The units will be in two four-story buildings, built in a Texas doughnut style – similar to a horseshoe. The buildings will be on an eight-acre site adjacent to the proposed Town Center.

Town Center – which also will include office buildings, restaurants and shops – will cover 34 acres of the 217-acre Southpointe II, the second phase of the mixed-use business and residential park.

Swisher said that once completed, the apartment project will be “likely the highest-quality suburban development in the Pittsburgh area.”

A news report stated that Miller-Valentine Group is considering a couple of sites for apartments in Washington County. Mike Dektas, a director of development and acquisitions with that Cincinnati-based firm, said only that “we’re still really early in evaluating. We haven’t even approached design and zoning issues.

“Hopefully, it will happen soon, but it’s too early to know if anything is there.”

Rick Shrum joined the Observer-Reporter as a reporter in 2012, after serving as a section editor, sports reporter and copy editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rick has won seven individual writing awards, including two Golden Quills.

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