Another chapter in the long history of the so-called REDDI or Gettysburg Station property, situated in Gettysburg between North Stratton and Carlisle streets near the historic railroad station, was written this summer when Staten Island developer Tim Harrison purchased the 2.4-acre property from the Adams County Industrial Development Authority (ACIDA) for $1 million.
The property, which has been under development since 2001, had previously been home to an antique market, a gas station, parking lots, as well as a variety of community programs including South Central Community Action Programs, the Literacy Council, a jobs office, and a homeless shelter before it was razed for commercial development.
The sale was made possible by ACIDA which made use of a $1 million grant from the state. ACIDA is a subsidiary of the Adams Economic Authority (AEA), which was created in 1998 by Adams County with the goal of submitting financing applications on behalf of business entities.
The property was purchased in 2006 by the Gettysburg Economic Development Corporation (GEDC), an entity created by the Gettysburg Borough Council. GEDC attempted to find a buyer, but ended up in bankruptcy, resulting in an ongoing legal battle over costs and fees.
The property was to be auctioned at a sheriff’s sale in 2010 but there were no bidders and it reverted to ACNB Bank before being purchased by ACIDA for $1.3 million with the goal of finding an appropriate developer. ACIDA was helped in the project by a loan guarantee from the county and a $1 million grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development..
“This is one of the last parcels in the borough that could be developed to get an expanded tax base, said AEA Chair Robin Fitzpatrick. “We wanted it to be mixed use and taxable.”
Fitzpatrick said the mission of the ACIDA was to find a buyer for the borough. The organization began by making $600,000 of site improvements including demolishing the existing buildings and conducting structural and environmental tests. “We got it build-ready,” said Fitzpatrick.
“That’s what a development company does — that’s our role,” said Fitzpatrick. “We were there to help the borough. There was no possibility of private development.”
Fitzpatrick said ACIDA had reviewed 5 or 6 proposals since 2013 but that each of the prior developers had ended up backing out. Fitzpatrick said the organization worked with each potential developer individually before moving on to the next one. “That’s why it took so long. We don’t have competitions. Why would someone put money and time into a plan if they might not get it? They need to know that if they are spending money it can be theirs.”
During the past years the property was made potentially more valuable for development through a controversial decision of the borough council to allow an increase in the allowed heights of buildings on the property. “They realized this was a designated development area and they wanted to get the most out of it,” said Fitzpatrick. “They wanted to make it more attractive.”
Going forward, any plans for the project must be approved by the Historical Area Review Board, the planning commission, and the borough council. “The developer knows what is allowable and what he’s going to put into it,” said Fitzpatrick. “He’s done a marketing study.”
In terms of whether the developer might allow the Adams County Farmers Market to continue using the site and whether HABPI might be allowed to put bike lane through the property, Fitzpatrick said “he has no obligations, but I’m certain if he can fit those things in there he’ll do so. He’s very community oriented.”