Blackford purchases BB&T property

By on February 9, 2018

LGH poised to replace short-lived presence  of N. C.-based BB&T in downtown Lititz.

 

Blackford Development in December entered an agreement to purchase the former BB&T property and has a deal with Lancaster General Health to likely bring 400-plus employees to the 26 N. Cedar St. property.

By Patrick Burns

The new buyer of the BB&T property is local and loves Lititz.

Blackford Development in December entered an agreement to purchase the former BB&T property and completed a deal with Lancaster General Health to likely bring 400-plus employees to the 26 N. Cedar St. property.

The sale was finalized Jan. 31.

Thomas D. Dell, Blackford Development senior chief counsel, said the company is excited about working with LGH and expanding business in the Lititz area.

“We have agreements to purchase the property and we’ve got agreements with Lancaster General to either renovate it or just lease it to (LGH),” Dell said.

While LGH has yet to confirm, Blackford said LGH is committed to being part of a project within the building.

Dell said it’s up to LGH to decide how quickly the project takes.

“(The time frame) is entirely up to Lancaster General at this point,” Dell said. “They’ve merged with Penn Medicine in Philadelphia and want to move some of their administrative offices to Lititz,” he said. “The question is how much expansion they want to do, how much renovation they want to do. We’re more than happy to help every way we can.”

LGH is likely to decide within a month what it plans to do with the building.

“To some extent it’s a huge financial commitment for LGH-Penn,” he said. “They have to decide whether they want to do it in stages or all at once.”

Dell said Blackford already has a numerous  connections to the Lititz community.

“We’re thrilled about the whole prospect,” Dell said. “We have a lot of ties to Lititz. Sen. (Mike) Brubaker works with us and he’s been very involved with Lititz for a very long time. We have  other people involved in the organization who are also involved in Lititz. We just think this is a great project.”

BB&T, which sold the property for about $6 million to Blackford, located at 120 North Pointe Blvd. in Manheim Township, talked about maintaining roots and continuing a corporate presence in downtown Lititz.

However, that didn’t happen.

The North Carolina-based bank terminated business  at the renovated mill building on Cedar Street, and closed the book on its deal to purchase Susquehanna Bank and its Lititz campus — initiated in November 2014 and  finalized in August 2015.

Prior to BB&T’s ownership, Susquehanna bank turned the ex-Morgan Paper Mill into its headquarters in a $6 million project completed in 1989.

 

 

 

BB&T paid $2.5 billion  to purchase Susquehanna, which was founded in Lititz in 1901.

About 500 former Susquehanna employees worked in Lititz in September 2015.

Long-time Lititz Borough Council President Karen Weibel in October sympathized as BB&T announced it was leaving Lititz and the cutting the last of its non-branch workforce.

“Employment upheaval is difficult enough, but especially so when it falls around the year-end holidays,” she said prior to her departure as council president at the end of 2017.

However, just a day after the New Year’s holiday, Blackford provided good news for Lititz.

“Well that’s definitely going to be an improvement for downtown,” said Elijah Yearick, referring to BB&T’s skeleton crew that has worked at the building for the past 18 months.

LGH spokesman John Lines in December said a move to Lititz is one of a number of options the organization is considering — as early as fall 2018.

Repeated attempts for comment by the Record Express continued for seven weeks, including a phone call Friday to Lines, who has refused to elaborate on LGH’s plans.

Lines confirmed the company had  notified 400 LGH office workers — part of its workforce at Burle Business Park in Lancaster — that it was considering moving to 26 N. Cedar St.

Still, during those repeated calls over several weeks, Lines would not offer any more details about the move. “We have nothing to announce,” Lines said most recently.

 

Dell said the project is good for Lititz but also a win for LGH and its employees.

“I don’t think LGH could be happier about the location, the employees seem excited about being there,” he said. “It’s a really good fit.”

BB&T did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Listing agent Bob Wolf, of NAI Commercial Partners, on Tuesday said he would withhold comment until the property closing takes place.

 

The Central Penn Business Journal ranked Blackford, founded by owner/president Richard Welkowitz, as the number one commercial real estate development firm in the Central Pennsylvania region for at least 11 consecutive years.

Blackford is a developer for large retailers nationwide, including Giant Food Stores, CVS and Walgreens pharmacy centers and Home Depot and Lowe’s home centers, according to published reports.

The company has diversified of late, moving into the technology sector, dental office development and founding Blackford Ventures.

Blackford Ventures is headed by former state Sen. Mike Brubaker who has served as CEO since 2015. Besides commercial and industrial real estate, the company invests in businesses in energy, information technology, cyber security, manufacturing and entertainment.

Despite its varied growth, Blackford loves working locally in the Lititz-Manheim corridor, Dell said.

“We’ve developed up and down that corridor, we’ve got a big project going on in Manheim, just a stone’s throw from Lititz — Penn Town Center, just across the street from the Manheim Auto Auction,” he said.

Whatever LGH decides to do, its arrival to the historic downtown property will be welcome, Dell said.

“It’s certainly a shot in the arm for downtown Lititz,” he said. “It’s a shame BB&T decided to pack up and leave, but it’s nice to have a huge local company decide to step up and take that over.”

Patrick Burns is social media editor staff writer for the Lititz Record Express. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at pburns.eph@lnpnews.com or at 721-4455.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *