CPBJ Article: Stone Gate Village and Blue Ridge
Triple Crown Corp. makes big plans in Harrisburg region
By Jason Scott February 24, 2017 at 3:00 AM
Mark DiSanto is CEO of Triple Crown Corp., which is headquartered in Lower Paxton Township, Dauphin County. - (Photo / Amy Spangler)
“Functionally obsolete” is far from a positive term: It's often used to describe deficient products that can no longer perform their original functions.
But obsolescence, especially in real estate, also can trigger major redevelopment. Just ask Mark DiSanto, CEO of Triple Crown Corp., a Lower Paxton Township-based developer and property management firm.
Triple Crown is about to embark on demolition of the vacant six-story Senate Plaza office building off Erford Road in East Pennsboro Township, which was in default and bank-owned, to make room for retail and hospitality opportunities.
On the East Shore, the company is planning to close its 133-acre Blue Ridge Golf & Tennis Club on Linglestown Road later this year — part of a national trend of shuttering golf courses — in favor of a mixed-use redevelopment that DiSanto believes will better meet the needs of Lower Paxton Township.
Both are local landmarks that have outlived their useful lives. The time has come to remake and reposition them, DiSanto said.
Pipeline of projects
Triple Crown is among the busiest local developers right now. Not only is the company redeveloping Senate Plaza and the Blue Ridge golf course, it has been scooping up other commercial deals and developing new residential communities on both sides of the Susquehanna River.
“We’re just opportunistic,” DiSanto said.
Triple Crown took full control recently of a once-prominent 41-acre business park in Lower Paxton called Gateway Corporate Center, hoping it can get the office complex fully leased again after financial struggles.
Prior to that, the company purchased the vacant former headquarters of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency in Susquehanna Township. Redevelopment plans are in the works for the old PEMA building, which is off Interstate Drive.
Stone Gate Village, a rental townhome community in Lower Allen Township, is one of Triple Crown’s newest construction projects. - (Amy Spangler)
Stone Gate Village, a townhome community with 89 rental units on Lisburn Road near Slate Hill Road in Lower Allen Township, is one of Triple Crown’s newest construction projects. Stone Gate started last year after the company finished construction on the nearby Brooks Edge Apartments on Lisburn Road, which has 150 units.
“We see opportunities and we see demand for that type of housing,” DiSanto said.
But not everything involves rental properties, nor does it all happen quickly.
With the surge in the housing market over the last five years, Triple Crown has seen more growth in single-family development. The company sold 62 lots last year in its Stray Winds Farm development in Lower Paxton and Susquehanna townships, a community that has been in the works for about a decade. Ryan Homes is the builder.
“We have the capacity to do any of those projects as we see opportunities,” said DiSanto, who has about 90 people on staff. Triple Crown also has its own construction crew, which helps keep project costs down. The company manages its own properties.
Triple Crown’s portfolio currently includes nearly 1,300 residential rentals in 14 properties on the East and West shores. The company also owns and/or manages over 2 million square feet of commercial space. Strong rental and leasing income from the company’s apartments and offices help raise capital to take on more projects.
New projects, like the redevelopment of Blue Ridge and Senate Plaza, also could open the door to more jobs.
After nearly five years of ownership, Triple Crown decided recently that it was time to do something different with Blue Ridge Golf & Tennis Club.
The golf business is declining and courses are closing. The midstate has lost a few courses in recent years to redevelopment.
Triple Crown has proposed rezoning Blue Ridge for a mixed-use project. One section would be an assisted living facility with about 90 beds. Another would house commercial development that could include new restaurants and shops. Part of that effort would include repurposing the clubhouse.
DiSanto also wants a residential section with a mix of single-family homes, townhomes and apartments — maybe as many as 350 units. In addition, there would be a 30-acre park for recreation.
The adaptive reuse project would be more of an aging-in-place community, DiSanto said. And it would help the township meet long-range needs for more housing and park space.
“It’s supporting the comprehensive plan, it reduces sprawl and puts less demand on the school districts,” he said.
He hopes that a plan will get approvals this year and that construction could start by the first half of 2018. Full build-out could take several years.
Three years ago, DiSanto tried unsuccessfully to buy Senate Plaza, the longtime home of Pennsylvania Blue Shield, which later became Highmark Inc. The heath insurer left the built in 2013 as it was looking to cut real estate costs and consolidate its local operations.
Highmark’s departure sent the building into default.
Triple Crown and partner J.C. Bar Properties Inc. bought the property last summer, but could not find anyone to commit to leasing large amounts of space in the old 230,000-square-foot office building. So the building will soon meet the wrecking ball.
Demolition could start in March or April as the owners work through their redevelopment plans for the site, DiSanto said.
Sheetz has already committed to the property, which is just off the Camp Hill Bypass. A Burger King restaurant also has been lined up.
The plan also includes adding a higher-end hotel with about 100 rooms, plus about 35,000 square feet of additional retail spread across the tract.
DiSanto said the final tenant mix has not yet been decided. The goal is to have a fast-casual restaurant and a Starbucks or comparable coffee shop, as well as some small service businesses.
Medical offices are a possibility since Holy Spirit Hospital is a neighbor. Smaller grocery stores and senior-living options also have been floated as possibilities.
DiSanto is hoping to have the property fully leased in 2018.