Allegheny Energy announces sale

May 21, 2005|by DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ

HAGERSTOWN - Unable to implement its vision for a high-end business park at the site, Allegheny Energy on Friday announced the sale of Friendship Technology Park and its former Hagerstown corporate headquarters to a private development company with ties to A.C. & T. Co. for an undisclosed sum.

Representatives from Oak Ridge XVII LLC, could not be reached for comment Friday, but officials from Allegheny and from the only business that bought land at Friendship said the company seeks to carry out Allegheny's plans for the site.

Allegheny, which moved its corporate headquarters to Greensburg, Pa., in 2003, has sought to sell Friendship for more than a year. Allegheny nearly sold it last year to the Washington, D.C.-based John Akridge Development Co., but the deal and other potential developers were thwarted by the specialty Office, Research and Technology zoning carried by the 320-acre property.


"It may be or may not be a surprise," Allegheny spokesman Allen Staggers said. "I think locally it's been known that we've been interested in selling the property for some time. We were working with (Akridge) for several months during 2004, but the deal fell through."

Akridge terminated its contract to buy the land from Allegheny after the Washington County Planning Commission turned down a request in December 2004 to amend the zoning to allow a mix of houses and businesses.

Staggers said the principals of Oak Ridge have ties to A.C. & T., a Hagerstown-based fuel distributor, and that they have expressed an interest in implementing Allegheny's plans for the technology park. He said Allegheny is disappointed it never was able to bring about the plans it had been developing since the 1990s.

"Site location evaluation is just sort of a curious thing," Staggers said. "This is not to say it won't happen, but at least in the time frame that it was owned by Allegheny it didn't happen."

Adna Fulton, president of A.C. & T., said he has had no involvement in the sale or with Oak Ridge, but he declined to speak for his sons, Brad and Mark, who could not be reached for comment.

Staggers said Allegheny agreed not to disclose the sale price. He noted Allegheny is a publicly held company and the sale was considered material in value - meaning more than $3 million, so Allegheny will have to report the transaction to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Mountainside Teleport Corp., a subsidiary of Intelsat Global Service Corp. in Washington, D.C., is the only company that bought land at the park. Serge Ducharme, senior manager at Mountainside, said his firm has been included in telephone conferences on the proposed transaction and he has met in person with the Fultons, owners of A.C. & T, about their intention to implement Allegheny's vision for the technology park.

"They understand our position, where we want to go with this thing, they know the zoning," he said. "I think it's going in the right direction."

Doug Wright Jr., chairman of the Washington County Economic Development Commission, said he hopes Oak Ridge will be able to succeed where Allegheny failed.

"It seemed like Allegheny has been struggling for years to do (that)," he said. "I think it was corporate structure that they could not get that thing off the ground. I would like to see, and I think the economic development commission would like to see, that property developed to generate good, quality jobs."

Allegheny nearly declared bankruptcy twice in 2003, Staggers said, due to the company's plans starting in 2000 to position itself as a national powerhouse in the electricity marketing business. To recover, he said, Allegheny has been selling the acquisitions it made since 2000 and has concentrated its efforts on its core businesses, those that existed prior to 2000.

From deficits starting in late 2002, Allegheny has reported surpluses in the second two quarters of 2004 and the first quarter of this year.

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