Officials map out plans for local share account

January 21, 2014
From left, Kelly Emborsky, Steve Thomas and Tony Rosenberger of Chapman Properties present their plan for an office project off Racetrack Road and Tanger Boulevard, across from The Meadows Racetrack & Casino. - Rick Shrum / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

Chapman Properties could be getting out of the starting gate in South Strabane Township. Finally.

The Leetsdale-based company has owned property across from The Meadows Racetrack & Casino since 1980, initially intending to build housing. That proved to be problematic, but Chapman liked the area, and over time bought adjacent land and amended its plans to office and retail.

Three officials from the real estate development and property management firm mapped out those plans Tuesday morning in its request for funding from the 2014 Washington County Local Share Account.

Chapman was one of 22 entities to present their cases before the review committee on the first day of briefings in Courthouse Square, Washington. They will conclude today with 48 presentations scheduled from 1 to 5 p.m. in the public meeting room.

The committee determines the recipients and the amounts each will get and forwards the recommendations to the county commissioners for approval or rejection. The list then will be sent to the state Department of Community and Economic Development, with the funds being distributed about six months later.

A total of 71 bodies submitted $22.2 million in funding requests from the program, which is administered by the Redevelopment Authority of Washington County. The money comes from 2013 gambling revenue at The Meadows and is to go toward economic and community development projects countywide.

Each organization must have secured funding from other sources that equals or exceeds their request.

That $22.2 million in requests is well above the approximately $6 million that is available this year.

Tuesday’s contrary weather forced two presenters to cancel. Try-Again Homes Inc. (Monongahela Valley Visitation House) rescheduled for today; Washington Area Senior Citizens Center Inc. did not.

Tony Rosenberger, vice president and principal, addressed the committee on behalf of Chapman, which is seeking $1.15 million from the LSA. He was accompanied by managing partner Steve Thomas and accountant Kelly Emborsky – and two maps of the company’s property, one an enlargement.

The firm – operating as Racetrack Road Management LLC for this project – would like to construct 500,000 square feet of office space during Phases I and II, in a complex that would employ 2,000, Rosenberger said during his presentation.

Chapman owns a 153-acre tract that is shaped like an easy chair and extends roughly from Racetrack Road, across from the horse stables, to Tanger Boulevard. The property has about a half-mile of frontage on Racetrack and seven-tenths of a mile of frontage along Tanger Boulevard, past the outlets.

Thomas said his company purchased 90 acres in 1980 “with the intent to do a residential project with Ryan Homes,” but a sewage moratorium eventually dashed those plans. He said Chapman in 2006 bought another 83 acres next to that land, sold some to Tanger for its entrance, and shifted its focus to office development.

Rosenberger said the funding request is for Phase I, which would feature an office building with 50,000 to 150,000 square feet on two lots, 4.9 acres and 2.4 acres. He said “the user” will determine the size and number of stories of that building.

He said that installation of basic infrastructure – sewerage and water – is integral to that phase and the entire project.

“Without Phase I, the rest will be a challenge,” Rosenberger said during the briefing. “The terrain is challenging.”

The Phase II retail area is planned for the left half of the frontage along Racetrack Road, across from the racetrack area. The Meadows is in North Strabane Township.

Thomas would like construction to begin this summer. He estimated the cost of the project at $50 million to $100 million and cautioned that it could take 10 years.

What’s a decade compared with the wait Chapman has endured?

“We’ve had an interest in Washington County for 30-plus years,” Thomas said.

“A primary and significant interest in Washington County,” Rosenber added for emphasis.

Tuesday’s briefings including one from the Authority of the Borough of Charleroi, which is not affiliated with Charleroi government. It was the largest request of the 71, for $2 million for the Speers/Dunlevy Wet Weather Control Project.

Cecil Township also made a large request originally, for about $1.6 million for Klinger Park, where work on a recreation complex, including three soccer fields, is under way. The site is near Southpointe and an apartment complex under construction called the Reserve at Southpointe.

Township Supervisor Andrew Schrader spoke and said the request was scaled back to $398,625. He said construction of a pathway connecting the Montour Trail to Southpointe is the main priority of this project.

Ten of the 11 review committee members were present. Bill Sember, director of the Washington County Authority, had a scheduling conflict and was unable to attend.

Rick Shrum joined the Observer-Reporter as a reporter in 2012. Previously, he was a section editor, sports reporter and copy editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rick has won numerous awards, including a Golden Quill, an O-R staff Golden Quill award, and four other writing awards during his 40 plus years working for daily newspapers. A lifelong Pittsburgher, he is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh.

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