In July of 2022, the Mayor and City Council of Frostburg signed a binding Letter of Intent (LOI) with Salisbury-based developer Gillis Gilkerson to enter into a due diligence period to develop the strategically demolished city block on Center Street between American Avenue and Oak Street. The project, profiled in a previous blog post, represents the first major investment in what City Administrator Elizabeth Stahlman describes as a “university mixed use corridor."
"Anytime you can create a connection between a university and a community is a great opportunity to be a partner in a development. We saw an opportunity to create that connection"
As a contractor, developer and real estate broker, Gillis Gilkerson has a long history of managing and completing successful real estate projects in its native Eastern Shore. While outside of their usual market, Brad Gillis, one of the company's Principals, noted that there are many parallels between Frostburg and Salisbury. "Anytime you can create a connection between a university and a community is a great opportunity to be a partner in a development. We saw an opportunity to create that connection" Brad Gillis noted. Having worked with several anchor institutions in and around the Salisbury/Wicomico County area, including Peninsula Regional Medical Center, Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, University of Maryland Medical System, and the Salisbury University Foundation, Gillis Gilkerson understands the challenges and opportunities that comes in investing in a small, university town. As Mr. Gillis puts it, "There's a need and demand for market rate housing. The University sees it, the community sees it, and we're attempting to fulfill that requirement." He adds that "from our development experience of being the conduit between a demand and a supply, we've been fortunate enough to be put in those positions to fulfill the requirement."
Brad and his team at Gillis Gilkerson have shared some very early conceptual renderings of the project with Allegany County Economic and Community Development. Incorporating an entire city block across the street from Frostburg State University, the project will consist of first floor commercial and four floors of residential units. While these designs are very early and will not reflect the final product, they are intended to convey a broad concept that is being refined through a final design process.
Using a well known "5-over-1" concept, the first floor will be structural brick or masonry, with four floors of traditional wood framed housing. This model is well known and used across the world as a means of maximizing quality and efficiency in building methods. With four residential floors, the building will have roughly 50 units of market rate housing.
In addition to spacious and modern one and two bedroom apartments, the building will also have amenities available for tenants, which, besides a fitness center, will include a dedicated bicycle storage and maintenance area. Leveraging Frostburg and Allegany County's unique assets and geography by incorporating infrastructure to support the use of bicycles as a viable transportation method underlines Gillis Gilkerson's understanding of the area.
"You know, having gone to Frostburg for a year I am eyes wide open on all of the rich natural resources and amenities that the area has", says Mr. Gillis who spent his freshman year at Frostburg State University. Understanding the area is key to Gillis Gilkerson, as their goal is to create a project that will be of interest to local businesses and community members.
While a novel approach to Allegany County, this style of building is well tested and received in most markets, which explains its ubiquity. However, Mr. Gillis understands that being a first mover in a market still comes with its challenges. he states, "The challenge that we're faced with is the reality of the market. We realized that the Frostburg market is a small one, and the underwriting challenge of coming to a small market and developing a large project is substantial."
However, he and his team are still optimistic. He goes on to say that, "We feel as if we're equipped to overcome that by building partnerships with both the City of Frostburg, Frostburg State University and also tenants and users that we haven't even found yet, and we look forward to taking the journey with all of our partners." The team at Gillis Gilkerson hopes that, by sharing these early conceptual renderings, they will be able to start fielding local tenant interest for this project.
"Frostburg is a special place in the State of Maryland, and we look forward to attempting to better it with a project that supplies market rate housing at an affordable price in an area that has such great natural resources and beautiful amenities"
As the anchor tenant of the building, the restaurant and bar space will be a driver in both commercial foot traffic and residential tenant interest. In building and leveraging an outdoor seating area, the project will be a focal point of the community and draw attention as a gateway from I-68, along with the planned roundabout to be constructed at Braddock and Bowery Streets.
Understanding that this project will be the preeminent private development that perspective residents and students will see as they enter the campus from I-68, Mr. Gillis states that "Frostburg is a special place in the State of Maryland, and we look forward to attempting to better it with a project that supplies market rate housing at an affordable price in an area that has such great natural resources and beautiful amenities." As a final note he states that "on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, we have a high quality of life and I know for sure you guys have a high quality life here as well. I just look forward to adding a little bit of spice to it."
Interested in learning more about the project or potentially renting an apartment or commercial space? Contact Gillis Gilkerson by sending an email to Chelsye Phillips-Hutton (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Antonis Alexandris (email@example.com) to speak to their team directly.