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Investing in Growth

by Kerri Corderman + photos by Chris Jackson

Investing in Growth

Private development is a key to unlocking city and country growth.

Private development in Hagerstown and Washington County is ever evolving and developers continue to explore new markets that will accommodate growth in the area and meet the needs of current and prospective residents and businesses.

For Asad Ghattas, development in Hagerstown and Washington County begins with a vision. “I like to take something from scratch and put it down on paper and then see how it can be used in the real world,” says Asad, the owner and founder of Ghattas Enterprises, which was created in 1974. He says his venture into real estate began partly with the development of a space for his family’s business, Office Suppliers, Inc. “We built a place to house the operation for OSI and made the building large enough to house other tenants, and it grew,” he says. “I enjoy real estate very much, and have been fortunate to be surrounded by a talented team of people over the years.”

OSI recently expanded to become HyperSpace, a firm that provides strategic furniture solutions for commercial environments locally in the Hagerstown area as well as Frederick and Baltimore, with showrooms in Hagerstown and Baltimore. HyperSpace’s Baltimore office is located in a retrofitted historic building, and is a component of Ghattas Enterprises whose headquarters is in Hagerstown.

Today the development company has multiple commercial and residential properties for lease throughout Washington County, and just recently completed the Fountainhead One building on Pennsylvania Avenue in Hagerstown. Asad says he is excited about this project as it involves the construction of a new 55,000 square foot building on the former site of Martin’s grocery store, which relocated to a new space north on Pennsylvania Avenue. Fountainhead One features office space, and provides easier parking for tenants while being next to everyday amenities including a fitness center, restaurants, and dry cleaning — all spaces anticipated to be leased by February of 2014. Asad says he feels this space is just one example of development in Washington County that provides convenience for interested tenants and employers.

“This area is in a good position in a couple of years for an economic boom. I’ve been here a long time and have seen it really grow in the past 10 to 15 years,” Asad says. “Hagerstown and Washington County have a lot of potential with being close to the interstates and airport in the area.”

David Lyles Developers also recognizes the opportunity for economic growth in the area. Owner David Lyles, a third generation builder, says the company has adapted with the market over the past several years and has been busy completing several residential and commercial development projects. “We continue to metamorphosize ourselves,” says David. “We started in residential and then grew into commercial and light industrial. We opened up ourselves to our surroundings and have partnered with great people on staff with the City and the County.”

One key area of growth that David says his company has explored is planned communities for people ages 55 and older. Cobblestone Estates is a current project that will feature two and three-bedroom villas with full-service maintenance that residents could choose to take advantage of for everything related to the exterior of the homes. “The market for baby boomers will continue to grow,” says David. “We’re finding that as the economy changed, people need something more cost effective.”

In addition to residential development, the company also has several new commercial projects, including the recently completed Lyles Center II building located adjacent to the Lyles Center on Conamar Drive. Lyles Center II currently houses David Lyles Developers, Studio 6 Health Club, and Raymond James Financial Services. The Lyles Center II building as well as the company’s other properties feature environmentally conscious materials such as LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certified recyclable woods, says David.

Sustainable spaces are also a key component of Ghattas Enterprises’ properties. The Susquehanna Financial Center on the Dual Highway is Silver LEED Certified because of its use of energy efficient lighting in the building among other features.

Development in Downtown Hagerstown

Private development is also occurring in downtown Hagerstown. The City Center with its small town, main street feel continues to be a work-in-progress that some developers see as ripe with opportunity. Rob Ferree, president of Bowman Development Corporation, says Don Bowman, president and chairman of Bowman Group, LLC, saw the three building complex on South Potomac Street that now houses businesses such as Bulls & Bears restaurant as just that — an opportunity.

“The complex was a project of support to downtown revitalization by Mr. Bowman and his family,” says Rob. “He took an opportunity to make a long-term investment to create a space of equality.”

This effort involved acquiring the Walker/Tri-State/Potomac Walk complex and renovating it in a modernized style while still preserving its historic character. It opened in 2008 and is the home of Bulls & Bears, special event space, and office space, which is now occupied by businesses and organizations including the Washington County Arts Council.

Bowman has plans for additional development downtown that involves the building at 13-17 South Potomac Street. The vision, says Rob, is to create a space that enhances the connecting buildings, which are the Maryland Theater and the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts.

These on-going private development projects in the area coincide with the goals of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Strategic Plan, which calls for physical improvements to downtown Hagerstown and economic development that generates opportunity for small businesses.

A healthy economy will be critical for the County that is projected to grow to 178,950 residents by 2025 according to the Washington County Department of Business Development. David Lyles emphasized the importance of continuing to increase the number of businesses in the area like JLG Industries, Inc. and others that can provide jobs that draw college graduates back to the Hagerstown area or give new families opportunities to move to Washington County.