.

HLRA to Begin Air Base Real Estate Negotiations

The Horsham Land Redevelopment Authority on Wednesday moved forward with plans that would begin the real estate negotiation process for Willow Grove air base.

The Horsham Land Redevelopment Authority on Wednesday moved forward with plans that would begin the real estate negotiation process for Willow Grove air base.
The Horsham Land Redevelopment Authority on Wednesday moved forward with plans that would begin the real estate negotiation process for Willow Grove air base.
The Horsham Land Redevelopment Authority on Wednesday approved the submission of a plan that will guide the acquisition of 862 acres of the former Willow Grove air base. 

The HLRA board voted 4-0 to authorize submission of an economic development conveyance as presented during last month's meeting. Board member Joanna Furia was absent. 

The document will go hand-in-hand with a business plan and pro forma and will be used to start land acquisition negotiations with the Navy. With it comes the "opportunity to disagree on a whole lot of things in private session," HLRA Executive Director Mike McGee said of the real estate negotiations expected to get underway soon.

"This EDC application is a real estate negotiation process," McGee said. "(Preston) wants to get value out of the property. We, of course, need to make sure that we don’t overpay for the property."

In the end, "the mission that they’ve been given is to offload the property," he said. 

For some, that can not happen soon enough, particularly since the air base was placed on a closure list in 2005, the military left in 2011 and, with the exception of the 238-acre Horsham Air Guard Station, the base has been vacant for nearly three years. 

Gregory C. Preston, BRAC Program Management Office East director, who, earlier this week led open house style public meetings with attendance from more than 90 area residents, said the first parcel could transfer "as soon as this calendar year."

The first area to leave federal hands would be all the property from Maple Avenue, to and including Keith Valley Road, which comprises the shuttered airport runway and taxiways, McGee said.

Preston said he could not offer a timetable for transfer of the second parcel, which includes land between the runway and Route 611 where the majority of the base’s buildings are situated.

"We’re moving that out further. We’re still doing some investigations. The science drives it," Preston said, adding that more testing is needed to "ensure we protect human health and the environment."

The last to transfer is the area along Horsham Road where contamination continues to exist in the base’s former landfills, officials have said. 

Moving beyond land transfers, McGee said traffic will be the "biggest problem" in redeveloping the property over the next 25 years. McGee said HLRA staff are putting together comments to be submitted to the Navy as part of the Environmental Impact Statement, a draft of which is available here. The Navy is accepting comments through Feb. 10.

So far, Preston said the three topics residents seem to share revolved around traffic, timing of the land transfer and redevelopment, and concerns over the drone command center planned for the neighboring Horsham Air Guard Station. 

In order to make sure a funding arm is in place before land acquisition becomes reality, the HLRA board also voted Wednesday to authorize solicitation of Statement of Qualifications from qualified real estate development teams. The plan is to select a team to serve as a master developer–and main financier–for the redevelopment.

Comparable military bases received three to 10 submissions, McGee said. 

"This is a big undertaking," McGee said. "There’s not a whole lot of entities who have the cash capitalized to this extent."

Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »