East Frederick Rising: The Future of Modern Urban Renewal

Can the east side of Frederick become a Dutch wonderland on American soil?

During the summer of 2005, I had the opportunity to travel with my husband and children to Holland to visit extended family.  Prior to our trip, I read with trepidation that the Netherlands is the most densely populated country in the European Union.  I pictured my small children being swept out of my hands and into Amsterdam hash bars on a tide of boisterous crowds rivaling Times Square on Thanksgiving weekend.

I was way off base, as it turns out–about the crowds and the hash bars–because the Dutch are masterminds at urban planning and engineering.

The streets of Amsterdam were bustling and alive, but not crowded.  In the nearby suburb of Wassenaar–where my brother-in-law lived with his family–it was a 30-minute stroll from the center of the charming village square through suburban neighborhoods to the farms that ringed the outskirts of the community.  We spent a sunny August afternoon on a pristine beach just a 20-minute bike ride from his home–again, busy and lively, but not unpleasantly crowded.

Best of all, it is possible to travel to just about anywhere in the Netherlands by way of bicycle on dedicated bike paths criss-crossing the entire country.  Perhaps as a result of the heavy dependency of the Dutch on bicycle travel, obesity did not appear to me to be a problem there (this despite the fact that most food groups in Holland are served fried into some sort of pancake).

I would never have guessed at any point during our all-too-brief time in the Netherlands that nearly 17 million people are crammed into such a tiny jewel-box of a country.  To this day, I have no idea where those millions of people were tucked away.  (I also had trouble spotting the very discreet Amsterdam “coffeeshops” until they were pointed out to me.)

My thoughts have returned to Holland many times as I’ve watched Frederick’s political pendulum swing back and forth between pro-growth and no-growth administrations.  In Amsterdam I saw proof positive of an existence that allows for the best of both worlds:  a vital and breathtakingly beautiful urban city community, surrounded by bucolic villages and farms.  An existence with room for all kinds of people living in all kinds of environments supporting all kinds of lifestyles.

I have a tendency to become enchanted abroad, so this Utopic vision of Dutch life is no doubt partially a result of travel-dazzle and jet lag, but only partially.  If the Dutch can create such beautiful clean-living harmony for millions of people on so few square miles of land (land that they largely artificially engineered out of reclaimed river delta) why can’t we create something similar here in Frederick?

Frederick may have a chance to do exactly that with East Frederick Rising, a 2,000 acre mixed-use smart growth project located between Carroll Creek Linear Park and Frederick’s expanding airport just west of the Monocacy River.  Billed as “Mid-Maryland’s Economic Hub for the 21st Century,” this project is planned to marry the walkability of Frederick’s historic downtown with modern technologies and sustainable methodologies to create a community very unlike typical suburban developments.

East Frederick Rising is the next natural step in building on what was begun with Carroll Creek Linear Park, a beautiful destination born of Ron Young’s determination and indomitable will to solve the problem of recurrent flooding in the city and at the same time create a park drawing locals and tourists alike.

It may seem counter-intuitive for a city the size of Frederick to undertake a project of such substantial scope in a lackluster economy.  However, the stars are aligning in a manner that suggests this project is entirely feasible:

  • Millenials: East Frederick Rising dovetails perfectly with the zeitgeist of the millennial generation:  urban living in walkable, vital communities served by public transit, rich in restaurants and cultural activities, and surrounded by environments that support active lifestyles.
  • Political Will:  Smart Growth is here to stay, and East Frederick Rising could potentially be a marquee project setting the bar for sustainable development in Maryland going forward.
  • Location: Frederick is well within commuting distance of Baltimore and D.C. and airports serving both, and 2,000 acres is a massive tract of land for an urban renewal project.
  • Capacity: We’ve had conversations at MacRo with several regional developers (all deep of pocket and rich in experience) who are enthralled with the character and charm of downtown Frederick and chomping at the bit to develop innovative mixed-use multifamily projects here.  Without exception, they would all like to see a high-end grocery store located in the east end first, but that may be putting the cart before the horse.
  • Jobs potential: The Frederick region has long been nurtured as an incubator for the bio tech industry, and with our highly education population has the potential to become a hot-bed of start ups and entrepreneurs.

Combine developer money, TIF financing, political clout, cultural shifts to urban living, a charming historic town in a highly-desired location, and steady job growth…and what do you get? A sweet spot where the impossible begins to seem possible.

The Urban Land Institute conducted a workshop to develop recommendations for implementing the vision of the project, and presented its findings to the City of Frederick yesterday.  Judging by the comments of aldermen and the public alike, most saw the potential in the project, and understood the importance in having a vision and a plan to ensure that the fate of east Frederick isn’t left to the vagaries of market forces.

It goes without saying, East Frederick Rising will need a stalwart champion (or champions) with the vision, determination, patience, and clout of the Carroll Creek Linear Park advocates lead by Ron Young decades ago.  And of course, this is a project that will also take decades–perhaps as many as five of them–to come to full fruition.

If executed true to the vision, East Frederick Rising has the potential to be an astounding mixed-use community that rivals anything Maryland has ever seen:  a modern marvel in urban renewal that compliments and co-exists intimately with Frederick’s historic heritage and is locally sustained by its rich agricultural assets.

It’s enough to make even the Dutch a little envious.

The author:  Kathy Krach is a commercial sales and leasing agent with MacRo.  Thanks to this post, she’s been afflicted with a strong hankering for international travel.

City Economic Development Advisory Council Formed

Can 16 members of the Frederick community provide BOLD ideas to enhance and attract more businesses to the City?  

It was early May of this year that I received an email from Richard G. Griffin, Director of Economic Development for The City of Frederick. 

The message was to inform me that Mayor Randy McClement was going to “appoint a 16-member Economic Development Advisory Council (EDAC) for the City of Frederick composed of business owners/representatives, developers, and commercial brokers,” and I was identified “as an individual whom he would like to serve on the Council.”

The goal of this new entity is provide “advice and specific recommendations to help ensure that the City of Frederick, both today and into the future, is the preferred community in the Baltimore Washington region for attracting private business investment, jobs, and economic opportunity.”

Of course I was honored to be asked and very willing to serve.  I was also very impressed by the others who accepted the Mayor’s invitation.

It is hoped that this crew of “EDAC-ers” will be able to provide advice and recommendations to the Department of Economic Development and city elected officials regarding the development of:

> Sound regulatory policies affecting business and industry

> Annual economic development work program and budget

> Business development incentives

> Evaluation methodology to determine efficacy of economic development program

> Special issues/projects assigned by the Mayor and Board of Aldermen

> Community education on economic and business development topics

The first meeting was held on Monday, June 30, 2014.  It was and will continue to be open to the public.

City Alderman Josh Bokee was introduced by the Mayor to provide and overview of the City’s hopes for the council.  Bokee stated that he seeks BOLD ideas for the group to increase what many may believe is an already vibrant economy.

Richard Griffin and his staff outlined a detailed overview of the many positives that they have found draw new business to the City, as well as a number of real and perceived impediments to business development.

Issues like the fact that real property taxes are costing city owners up to $2.00 more per square foot than similar buildings located outside the city limits in the county.  The City also has a business personal property tax, while the county does not.

Traffic congestion, lack of transit options, the City’s zoning ordinance, and its seemingly cumbersome development review process were also listed, among other things.

Clearly the City of Frederick has many attributes that have caused any number of businesses to relocate within its boundaries.

Consider Leidos Biomedical (formerly SAIC-F), Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, State Farm Insurance and AstraZeneca (formerly MedImmune) to name a few.  But as the national economy has struggled to recover, many of our neighboring jurisdictions on Maryland’s outskirts have ramped up their efforts to attract business to their door steps.

Having recently served on the Economic Development Task Force in 2012 and 2013 that was appointed by the Board of County Commissioners with similar goals, it will be interesting to see how BOLD this City version is willing to be … or maybe the question will be how far the Mayor will let these EDAC-ers go?

Stay tuned … this could be fun!

The author: Rocky Mackintosh, President, MacRo, Ltd., a Land and Commercial Real Estate firm based in Frederick, Maryland. He has been an active member of the Frederick, Maryland community for over four decades.  He has served as chairman of the board of Frederick Memorial Hospital and as a member of the Frederick County Charter Board from 2010 to 2012, to name a few.  

Corporate Franchise Purchases Boost Frederick’s 1st Quarter Retail Property Sales

7-Eleven purchased two local convenience stores last quarter, nearly doubling dollar volume of sales in the commercial retail segment.

As far as my kids were concerned, the big news in Frederick’s commercial retail segment last quarter was Sonic purchasing a 1-acre retail pad near Walmart on Guilford Drive for $790,000 and opening the county’s first Sonic restaurant.  We have yet to try it because the line at the drive-through always seems to be wrapped around the building at lunch time on the weekends.  Now that school is out, maybe we’ll have our chance.

Frederick’s retail segment was a mixed bag of results during the first quarter.  Fewer square feet of retail space sold, but at a much higher dollar volume.  The doubling of dollar volume sales was due to 7-Eleven Inc. purchasing two local convenience stores in Libertytown and Thurmont for $1,220,639 ($541.30/SF) and $1,245,808 ($562.70/SF), respectively.  Convenience stores (particularly those with gas stations) tend to sell at a generous price per square foot, so these two purchases also bumped up the median price per square foot for the entire segment last quarter as compared to the first quarter of 2013.


Frederick’s retail leasing market had a lackluster first quarter in terms of the number of transactions and square footage leased, much like the same time period last year, and not unexpected given the first quarter contraction of the economy:

The good news in local retail leasing is that vacancy rates are holding below 5% on average.  New retail pads near  Wegmans and Francis Scott Key Mall have leased up fairly quickly, at rates between $30-35 per square foot before expenses.  Prime retail spaces in the heart of Frederick’s downtown historic district are hard to come by, and if the past few lease deals are any indication, average retail lease rates in that area are creeping up  into the mid teens to high teens per square foot, before expenses.

Note: Statistics provided for commercial property sales in this report are based on thorough research of every recorded commercial sales transaction listed in SDAT for the first quarter of 2014, and are deemed reliable.  Lease transactions are not recorded with Frederick county government.  Lease rates for this report were researched in CoStar.  Lease rates, if reported at all, are usually estimated.  Median lease rate calculations for the quarter are based upon available estimates and are meant to be used as a baseline trend versus hard data.  

The author:  Kathy Krach is a commercial sales and leasing agent with MacRo.

MacRo Sells 3.49 Acre Lot at the Manor at Holly Hills

MacRo, Ltd. is pleased to announce the sale of lot 305 at the Manor at Holly Hills.  This 3.49 acre lot is on a private setting at the end of the cul-de-sac nestled in a clearing surrounded by trees.  The property is located at 9737 Ormonds Terrace, Ijamsville, MD 21754.

The sale closed on June 21, 2014.

The Manor at Holly Hills is a one-of-kind community situated on 185 idyllic acres just east of Frederick City.  Careful planning went into preserving the beautiful organic features of the land, including rugged rock outcroppings, rolling hillsides, and mature forests.

Rocky Mackintosh, President of MacRo, Ltd., represented the seller, the Manor at Holly Hills, LLC and Gerly Oden of Long & Foster Real Estate represented the Buyer.

For more information on how MacRo, Ltd. Real Estate Brokerage Services may be able to assist you in the sale or acquisition of land, and/or the sale or leasing of your commercial or industrial property, contact Rocky Mackintosh at 301-748-5655 or rocky@macroltd.com

MacRo Sells 12.43 Acre Lot at the Manor at Holly Hills

MacRo, Ltd. is pleased to announce the sale of lot 106 at the Manor at Holly Hills.  This 12.43 acre property is on one of the highest settings in the Manor with a wooded backdrop and dramatic rock outcroppings.  The property is located at 9766 Ormonds Terrace, Ijamsville, MD 21754.

The sale closed on June 20, 2014.  

The Manor at Holly Hills is a one-of-kind community situated on 185 idyllic acres just east of Frederick City.  Careful planning went into preserving the beautiful organic features of the land, including rugged rock outcroppings, rolling hillsides, and mature forests.

Rocky Mackintosh, President of MacRo, Ltd., represented the seller, the Manor at Holly Hills, LLC, in this transaction and Betsy Cain of Mackintosh Realtors represented the buyer.

For more information on how MacRo, Ltd. Real Estate Brokerage Services may be able to assist you in the sale or acquisition of land, and/or the sale or leasing of your commercial or industrial property, contact Rocky Mackintosh at 301-748-5655 or rocky@macroltd.com

2014 Frederick County Primary Election Endorsements — Part 2

With less than a week to go before final votes are cast, let’s take a deeper look into the Republican primary election ballot.

A little less than a month ago, I put a bi-partisan endorsement for voters to consider of three Republican candidates and three Democrats for to consider on their respective ballots for this coming Tuesday, June 24th.

I have re-listed these six candidates at the end of this article, but you can read about more detail on each in Part 1 of 2014 Frederick County Primary Election Endorsements.

Looking over the competitive races in Republican primary, the following are the candidates I like:

County Executive:           Blaine Young

I figured that I best tackle the topic of our current and final President of the Frederick County Board of County Commissioners right off the bat.  I did support Blaine in his 2010 successful run for office.  He made some campaign promises and kept them … that is something in and of itself.  Have I liked the manner in which he has handled himself in certain situations with the public?  No, not always.

Despite that he has been publicly plummeted of late for just about everything he says or does,  the onetime Republican gubernatorial wannabe has openly challenged the state Democratic establishment over any number of issues, including the incredible financial mandates placed on Maryland counties from the EPA and MDE.  He has also butted heads with the state and many in our community over the planned sale and privatization of the Citizen and Montevue Nursing homes.

His style has often been tough and offensive to some, but with that said, I stand by him in his bid to be first County Executive for Frederick County.

Many have claimed him to be too friendly with the development community. As I have written in several MacRo Report Blog posts, I believe that his work to replenish the housing pipeline that was run dry by the Jan Gardner administration four years earlier has been wisely implemented.  Facts and statistics make it clear that even with what appears to have been a flood of approvals, the county is still behind in filling the pipeline.  Then approved by the Gardner administration to meet the mandates of Governor O’Malley’s goal of adding  36,000 new housing units in Frederick County by 2030.

Some may say that my endorsement may be self-serving, but after nearly 42 years in the real estate business in our community, I have dedicated countless hours of time to all aspects of the businesses, people and organizations that make give Frederick its pulse.  And I have experienced firsthand how many others have run county and city government, including his primary opponent David Gray, as well as Jan Gardner, who will be Democratic challenger in November.

Many want to believe that there will be greener pastures ahead, if Young is defeated.  All I can say is that those years would surely be different … but very likely even more contentious among and between neighboring jurisdictions … not to mention heavily laden with new and strict regulations and restrictions on businesses, as they were just four years ago.

Surely no candidate is perfect, and for some voters none of the county executive choices will be pleasant, but I stand by Blaine Young.

OK, so that is enough on my thoughts about the County Executive race!

~~~

The following are the other candidates in the Republican contest worth considering:

  • House of Delegates — District 3B:  Darren Wigfield
  • House of Delegates — District 4:  Kelly Schulz & Wendy Peters
  • County Council — At Large:  I lean toward Billy Shreve … however,  there are three other candidates worth serious consideration — Wayne Creadick, Dick Johnson &Jennifer Charlton
  • County Council — District 1:  This is another tough choice.  I lean toward Grace Hallenbeck with her experience of working for years with the charter government structure of Montgomery County … I really think she gets it.  A very close second is Carol Sepe, who would bring an interesting perspective to the office.
  • County Council — District 5:  Yes, I like Kirby Delauter and his no nonsense style, sure he has caught a lot of flack of late from his opponents, but as a commissioner, he has proven to be a very thoughtful decision maker.
  • Sheriff:  Chuck Jenkins
  • Republican Central Committee:  Mike Bowersox, Michael Catoe, Daniel Cowell, Joe Parsely, Cindy Schaff, Billy Shreve & Darren Wigfield

The candidates endorsed in the May 28th post are as follows:

  • Maryland State Senator, Republican, District 4:  David Brinkley
  • County Council — District 2, Republican:   Anthony Chmelik
  • County Council — At Large, Democrat:  Linda Norris-Walt
  • Circuit Court of Frederick County:  Danny O’Connor
  • County Council — District 3, Democrat:  Dwaine Robbins
  • County Council — At Large, Republican:  Bud Otis

As I always say, don’t take my word for it, do your own research on all the primary candidates and then get out and VOTE!

Once the dust settles and all the primary votes are counted, it will be time to re-vet all those standing and do this all over again … Good Luck to all candidates!

The author: Rocky Mackintosh, President, MacRo, Ltd., a Land and Commercial Real Estate firm based in Frederick, Maryland. He has been an active member of the Frederick, Maryland community for over four decades.  He has served as chairman of the board of Frederick Memorial Hospital and as a member of the Frederick County Charter Board from 2010 to 2012, to name a few.  

Frederick County Board of Education Candidate Primary Election Endorsements 2014

How does the outcome of a Board of Education primary election have anything to do with land & commercial real estate in Frederick County?

The answer is very simple: A whole lot!

Please consider that Frederick County Public School system (FCPS) projects that it will educate 40,667 students in the 2014-2015 school year at a cost of $13,098 per pupil.

To save you time in doing the math, that totals $539,697,886 in county government approved funding. Put another way, that is over one half of a billion dollars county in real estate property taxes.

Consider that in 2013 there were 92,347 households and about 25,000 businesses within the boundaries of this county. If we figure that each of these are located a parcel of real estate (not sure where else they would be found!), the budgeted tax payer amount for each of these units totals over $4,500, whether the individuals have children or not.

Based upon adjusted statistics from the National Center for Education Statistics the average cost to publicly educate a student in the United States is about $11,800 (2010-2011 average of $11,153 compounded by 1.8% per year). So Frederick County is paying about 10% more than the national average.

Don’t get me wrong here, our children are a precious commodity to the people of Frederick County and making an investment in their education is vital to the future of our community and nation. So I am not challenging any of the above budget numbers.

That stated, all Frederick County voters should pay close attention the weight of the responsibilities that are placed on our elected BOE members. All too often voters don’t take the time to pay attention the individuals who file for these races, and then just follow the recommendations of the local teachers’ union.

With all due respect to my Facebook friend Gary Brennan, President of the Frederick County Teachers Association (FCTA), he has done a great job over the years looking out for the union he represents. In addition he has generally had a very strong influence on how the FCPS budget is crafted for the last several years.

Over the years I have paid close attention to many aspects Frederick County Public Schools, and I generally give them good grades, but it is always good the elect candidates to the Board of Education who are not afraid of challenging the education bureaucracy and the union’s strong lobby.

The candidates for the Frederick County Board of Education run on a non-partisan ballot, so all will appear on both the Democratic and Republican ballots.

Three of my endorsements go to incumbents who have proven their worth while in office: Brad Young, April Miller and Colleen Cusimano.

Jonathan Carothers is my fourth choice. He is new to local politics, but well versed in the issues surrounding the issues facing the BOE.

I believe each of these candidates to be the best for the five qualities I look for to lead the Frederick County Board of Education: Fiscally Responsible, Provide Parents with Educational Choices, Willing to hold themselves and FCPS accountable for their actions, Provide full transparency in all decisions that are made, and keep our student safe.

You don’t have to take my word for these endorsements, check all these hopefuls out for yourself … and then VOTE!

The author: Rocky Mackintosh, President, MacRo, Ltd., a Land and Commercial Real Estate firm based in Frederick, Maryland. He has been an active member of the Frederick, Maryland community for over four decades.  He has served as chairman of the board of Frederick Memorial Hospital, as a member of the Frederick County Charter Board from 2010 to 2012 and the Board of Directors of the Community Foundation of Frederick County … to name a few.  

MacRo Brokers Lease of Office Space on Monocacy Boulevard

MacRo, Ltd. is pleased to announce the leasing of 1,500 square feet of office space at 93 Monocacy Boulevard to Horizon Facilities Services, LLC.

Steve Cranford of MacRo represented the tenant in the transaction.  Nancy Green of Mackintosh Commercial represented the landlord.

For more information on how MacRo, Ltd. Real Estate Brokerage Services may be able to assist you in the sale or leasing of your property, contact Steve Cranford at 301-788-4373 or steve@macroltd.com.

MacRo Sells 8+ Acres of Industrial Land in Woodsboro, MD

MacRo, Ltd. is pleased to announce the sale of 8+ acres of industrial land in Woodsboro, Maryland.  

The property sold is an 8.8 acre parcel of land with industrial zoning located within the town of Woodsboro.  This property is “raw land” and did not include any improvements or entitlements.

The buyer is a local Woodsboro based business that plans to develop the land and relocate their operation in the future.

The sale price was $208,000.  Dave Wilkinson represented the Seller in this transaction.

For more information on how MacRo, Ltd. Real Estate Brokerage Services may be able to assist you in the sale of your land, contact David Wilkinson at 301-748-5670 or dave@macroltd.com.

Frederick’s Strong Industrial Market Reflects Nationwide Demand for Warehouses

Low interest rates, steady consumer demand, and record high industrial production is fueling strong demand for industrial real estate despite stunted first quarter GDP.

Rumor has it that the U.S. economy will at long last reach full employment recovery–a gain of 9 million jobs from the trough of the recession–this summer.  At five years, this recovery from “The Great Recession” has been twice as long in the making as that from the dot com bust in the early ’90s.

The Great QE Taper doesn’t appear to be putting heavy pressure on interest rates, so let’s all hope that the abysmal first quarter GDP growth of 0.1% was a weather-related anomaly.  Economists are banking on a combination of less drag from the government sector and more fuel from the housing sector to boost overall 2014 GDP into a more tolerable 3% range.  (Economists are betting on the housing market because the U.S. is creating households at a faster clip than housing stock, which is pushing  inventories to critical lows in many markets.  However, I wonder if they are taking into account the impact of a trillion dollars of student loan debt on the economic capacity of those new households.)

In the meantime, both industrial production and truck tonnage indexes posted all time highs during an otherwise lackluster first quarter, both of which translate into local demand for warehouse space.  Frederick’s industrial market had a much stronger first quarter than the same time period last year.  MacRo Report covered the top three industrial deals in Frederick’s Top 5 Commercial Deals for 1st Quarter 2014.  Below are basic statistics on Frederick’s warehouse market for 2013 and the first quarter of this year:

 

The second quarter of 2013 results were boosted by a First Potomac REIT portfolio sale that included $38 million and 545,000 square feet worth of Frederick County warehouse properties.

Nationwide, industrial vacancy rates have dipped below levels not seen since the height of the real estate boom back in the mid ’90s.  According to CoStar (the most comprehensive database of commercial real estate in the U.S.), Frederick’s industrial vacancy rate dropped to 11% for the first quarter of this year from 12.6% during the same time period of 2013.  Properties that range in size from 0-100,000 square feet fall into CoStar’s “light industrial” category; most of Frederick County’s industrial properties fall under into this category.  Nationwide, light industrial enjoyed the strongest rent growth and vacancy rate improvements of the warehouse segment during the past quarter.

Anecdotally, we are noting at MacRo that lease rates for industrial properties appear to have stabilized, and lease concessions are less generous than they were a year ago.  That coupled with low inventories of warehouse properties in Frederick could be setting the stage for lease rate increases, assuming the economy gets back into a stable growth rate.

Following are Frederick industrial leasing statistics gathered from CoStar for the first quarter of 2014:

 

Note: Statistics provided for commercial property sales in this report are based on thorough research of every recorded commercial sales transaction listed in SDAT for the first quarter of 2014, and are deemed reliable.  Lease transactions are not recorded with Frederick county government.  Lease rates for this report were researched in CoStar.  Lease rates, if reported at all, are usually estimated.  Median lease rate calculations for the quarter are based upon available estimates and are meant to be used as a baseline trend versus hard data.  

The author:  Kathy Krach is a commercial sales and leasing agent with MacRo.

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