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Firm to present redevelopment plan for downtown Hagerstown

January 14, 2013|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com

A presentation set to take place during the Hagerstown City Council meeting Tuesday has the potential to influence the vision and subsequent redevelopment of the city’s struggling downtown in a big way, according to a local attorney.

Representatives of Sora Development, a multi-faceted real estate development firm based in Towson, Md., will be at City Hall to talk about developing some type of public-private partnership and a comprehensive redevelopment plan for downtown Hagerstown, said attorney D. Bruce Poole, who will be representing the group.

Sora specializes in downtown redevelopment, college campus development and hospitality projects “uniquely tailored to our client’s requirements,” according to the company’s website, www.soradevelopment.com.

Joining Sora for the meeting will be officials from Daft, McCune and Walker, Inc., a landscape and architectural engineering firm also based in Towson, and Skanska USA, a contractor originally from Sweden that has grown into one of the largest in the world.

Downtown redevelopment has been a highly-discussed topic for Hagerstown officials over the past year, although talk of building a downtown stadium has essentially ceased with the anonymous $15 million donor failing to come through as once promised.

In public session, little progress toward any type of plan for a major urban renewal project has been made since the city’s new administration took office last November, but Tuesday’s presentation could spark new interest considering the involved parties.

“Skanska does projects all over the world, but they’ve had immense experience in universities, hospitals and stadiums,” Poole said in a telephone interview Monday.

“I don’t think (the group is) coming in to say, ‘look, you need a stadium,’” he said. “It’s pretty much, ‘this is everything we’ve done in the last seven or eight months, and here’s what we find and what we think you need to do now.’”

Poole pointed out a recent renewal project completed by Sora at Rowan University in Glassboro, N.J., where the firm — with the blessing of the city and school — identified an area that needed some updating and literally “just tore it down.”

“Just scraped it to the ground and started over,” he said. “I obviously didn’t see it beforehand, but I was up to Glassboro, and the people up there were very enthusiastic and said the area was blighted at the time that they took it over.”

Sora is also working on projects in New Hampshire, Connecticut and the Carolinas, Poole said.

“I think it’s a good fit,” he said. “They’ve got very good experience that seems tailored to Hagerstown’s needs.”

Additionally, Poole said Daft, McCune and Walker engineered the total redevelopment of the Towson Town Center, which was “basically a run-down shopping mall” about 10 years ago.

“They came in and completely re-did it, and it’s just beautiful,” he said. “And they’ve got all sorts of activity now around it and it’s been vital to Towson’s redevelopment.”

Other Daft, McCune and Walker projects include the Cordish Lacrosse Center at Johns Hopkins University and some of the university’s hospital facilities, Poole said.

“They’ve had definite experience with sports centers,” he said of the engineering firm.

The city council work session meeting is slated to begin at 4 p.m., with Sora’s presentation tentatively slated to start about 5:10 p.m.

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