Friday, February 10, 2012

RedGo buys 32 acres in NJ

by Natalie Kostelni
RedGo Development is taking a gamble on this Camden County community that sits midway between Philadelphia and Atlantic City. It bought 32 acres on White Horse Pike.

The undeveloped land neighbors the Virtua Berlin Hospital, borders Jackson Road and is across from the Berlin Shopping Center where a Kmart serves as the anchor. The land was bought at an auction.

The property had been owned by an undisclosed local family who held onto it since the 1960s but never developed it.

It’s the first time RedGo, based in West Chester and with multiple projects in Philadelphia’s western suburbs, has ventured into South Jersey. The company was formed in 1998.

“We’re always trying to expand our focus into other areas,” said Fred Goebert, president of RedGo. “South Jersey has always been in our target zone.”

In the last two years, Goebert figured RedGo had made $200 million in bids on at least a dozen South Jersey properties.

“We finally had some luck,” he said.

The parcel has a lot of potential, Goebert said. It has 1,600 feet of frontage on White Horse Pike and its proximity to Virtua Berlin Hospital might lend itself to uses associated with the hospital. However, Goebert hasn’t completed any market studies and is just beginning to evaluate how RedGo might develop it. It’s zoned for retail and office.

It hasn’t been easy for Berlin to attract new businesses to the community or to lure developers to vacant parcels. A 44-acre site that Owens Corning Fiberglas Corp. owns at 160 Jackson Road has sat undeveloped since 1993 when the company decided to close the calcium silicate plant and cut 100 jobs there.

“We have had some improvement along White Horse Pike with some of the older buildings but it’s a slow process especially with the economy now,” said Berlin Borough Mayor John Armano.

“The businesses in town are hanging on by a shoestring. It’s tough. No one wants to spend the company. No one wants to loan money.”

A bank drew up plans not long ago to build a new branch on two acres on White Horse Pike (Route 30) but decided to walk away from the idea, Armano said. The property was priced way too high, he said.

Though it is zoned for office, the demand for new office space is weak in South Jersey.

“We have 18 percent vacancy in good areas,” he said, adding that medical offices might work since the hospital is so close.

Goebert is optimistic. He views the vacant land he bought, the Owens Corning site and other parcels as ripe for new construction.

“From this site all the way to Route 73 there is a lot of vacant land and there will definitely be some big development going on there between now and over the next decade,” Goebert said.
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