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Here is a recap of business activity in the Fredericksburg region during the third quarter of 2011:
There was a good deal of hotel activity. A Comfort Inn & Suites opened at a facility formerly slated to be a Best Western outside Orange. Construction resumed at a long-stalled Candlewood Suites just off Interstate 95 in Spotsylvania. The University of Mary Washington Foundation moved toward starting its Eagle Village hotel, which is likely to be a Hyatt Place and will be financed by Cardinal Bank.
The Fredericksburg Hardware building downtown was demolished to make way for Amelia Square. Down William Street, F.W. Sullivan's Old Town Bar and Grille prepared to open a restaurant. Meanwhile, downtown businesses debated joining the Virginia Main Street Program, and the city's Economic Development Authority started a facade improvement program to spruce up downtown. Capital Ale House's annual Oktoberfest event attracted about 9,000 people.
A partnership between Morgan Stanley Real Estate Investing and NVR purchased dozens of lots in the Estates at Lee's Parke development in Spotsylvania and Village of Idlewild in Fredericksburg. Toll Brothers took over the Retreat at Chancellorsville development in Spotsylvania. Walton International Group bought about 378 acres in the Lee's Parke area of Spotsylvania for about $11.58 million. And plans were unveiled for a mixed-use complex on 62 acres next to the future Virginia Railway Express station in Spotsylvania.
Utility lines were severed during the State Route 3 widening project in Spotsylvania as crews raced to finish by next year's deadline.
The Department of Veterans Affairs announced plans to bring 156 jobs to Spotsylvania with its Strategic Acquisition Center. Also in the Lee's Hill Commercial Center, Rappahannock Goodwill Industries bought the former Gallahan's Furniture building, HDT Global leased office space and Career Training Solutions finalized its plans to move.
McKesson Corp. started hiring at its new 340,000-square-foot distribution center in Caroline, which lost its HUBZone status and made plans to lower BPOL taxes for small businesses. The Caroline Board of Supervisors also approved Vulcan Materials' controversial sand-and-gravel mining project along the Rappahannock River and was sued for doing so.
Lots of high-dollar real estate transactions in Stafford: CommonWealth REIT bought six office buildings, bringing the total office space it has purchased in North Stafford in the past year to 348,000 square feet. A tightly secured building off U.S. 17 used by the FBI sold for $30.3 million. And the two Greenfield Senior Living facilities sold for about $13.1 million. Meanwhile Tridex Associates moved forward on its 300,000-square-foot office, manufacturing, research and storage development facility off Eskimo Hill Road.
A five-year, $1.7 million makeover of the 46,000-square-foot A. Smith Bowman Distillery in the Bowman Center off State Route 2 in Spotsylvania began. Meanwhile master distiller Joe Dangler retired, and Truman Cox took over.
Fredericksburg City Council approved incentive packages for two new businesses--the Buttermilk & Old Lace restaurant on Caroline Street and AAA Mid-Atlantic's car-care facility and retail location in Central Park. Council also selected First Choice Public-Private Partners for the downtown courthouse project and approved all the steps necessary to buy the Masonic Lodge riverfront property using a $200,000 EDA grant and low-interest loan.
The National Slavery Museum declared bankruptcy, postponing Fredericksburg's plans to sell its property in Celebrate Virginia South to recoup taxes.
Medic-1 Clinics, which recently closed its final area urgent-care facility, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection. In other medical news, Fitch Ratings and Moody's reduced Mary Washington Healthcare's bond rating; the new 40,000-square-foot Surgi-Center of Central Virginia medical facility next to Fredericksburg's Dixon Park complex opened; Dr. Nather Ansari bought a parcel in front of the Walmart store on Southpoint Parkway in Spotsylvania for a primary and urgent care clinic; HealthSouth got approval to expand its Fredericksburg rehabilitation hospital; and MWHC opened its new regional cancer center. Several additional medical office buildings are planned locally.
The new Walmart store at the King George Gateway shopping center opened. Also in King George, Cleydael, the historic home where assassin John Wilkes Booth sought refuge, was sold to Ed Veazey. And in other Walmart news, the company proceeded on its plans in Orange County.
In apartment news, Home Properties Inc. moved forward on its Cobblestone Square complex in downtown Fredericksburg. Johnson Development Associates received a special-use permit from the city to build Phase Two of its Haven complex at Celebrate Virginia South and then put the completed Phase One on the market. More apartments, along with a law-enforcement training center, were planned for Celebrate Virginia North. A proposal was submitted to redevelop the Fox Chase Apartments off U.S. 1 in south Stafford into a 99-unit townhouse community.
Books-A-Million opened at the Village at Spotsylvania Towne Centre. The Borders store in Central Park closed after a liquidation sale, and former Colonial Forge High School teachers Mark Doherty and Jeremy McCommons bought the building at auction.
Wachovia Bank officially became Wells Fargo. BB&T again led the way in area deposits. StellarOne Bank closed a branch at 5996 Plank Road in Spotsylvania.
Rosner Auto Group opened its new Nissan dealership in Stafford, and a new showroom was completed for Fiat of Fredericksburg in Spotsylvania. Bill Britt Motors in Spotsylvania ceased to be a Suzuki franchise.
Tom Rumora was named Spotsylvania's new economic development director.
The University of Mary Washington opened its $15 million Anderson Center sports and entertainment complex and inaugurated President Rick Hurley.
American Indoor Karting closed its facility in Fredericksburg's Central Park Town Center and made plans for an indoor paintball complex there.
The second-largest earthquake in Virginia history caused significant damage in the area, particularly in Mineral, near its epicenter in in Louisa County. Germanna Community College lost use of one of its Spotsylvania campus buildings, and the two nuclear reactors at the North Anna Power Station were shut down for many weeks.
The transfer of 2,767 BRAC-related jobs to Marine Corps Base Quantico was completed. Construction continued on the third 140,000-square-foot office building at the nearby Quantico Corporate Center despite a minor setback when a crane hit the tower.
The Augustine Golf Club off Courthouse Road in Stafford reopened to the public following a seven-month renovation that overhauled the course.
Spotsylvania bought the Merchant Square building at Courthouse Village from W.J. Vakos & Co. for $10 million. Vakos planned more apartments and retail space at the development, and also back-filled restaurant spaces at its Southpoint II center.
The Fredericksburg Expo and Conference Center landed the Historicon 2012 convention, expected to be one of the biggest in the facility's five-year history.
Bill Freehling: 540/374-5405
Here is a look at some local economic indicators for the three months ending Sept. 30. The data are for Fredericksburg and the counties of Caroline, King George, Stafford and Spotsylvania unless otherwise noted. The latest available data are used.
Q3 2011: 1,033
Q2 2011: 1,167
Q3 2010: 1,015
--Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.
Median housing prices
September 2011: $200,000
September 2010: $215,450
--Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.
Hotel nightly revenue per available room
(Fredericksburg, Stafford, Spotsylvania)
YTD 2011 (through August): $45.05, $40.28, $38.97
YTD 2010 (through August): $44.90, $46.28, $41.21
--Smith Travel Research
August 2011: 6.2 percent
August 2010: 6.3 percent
--Virginia Employment Commission
New vehicle registrations
Q3 2011: 3,531
Q3 2010: 3,443
--Virginia Automobile Dealers Association
Local sales tax receipts
July-Aug. 2011: $6.39 million
July-Aug. 2010: $6.06 million
--Virginia Department of Taxation
Commercial real estate vacancy rates
(Office, Industrial/Flex, Retail)
Q3 2011: 12.3 percent, 18.8 percent, 6.9 percent
Q3 2010: 15.4 percent, 18 percent, 7.4 percent
--Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer
This is a quarterly feature in which The Free Lance-Star Business team gives a snapshot of area market conditions and reviews some of the important happenings over the past three months that have affected the area's economy. Look for it a few weeks after the end of each quarter, and let us know if there are additional things you'd like to see here.
AUGUSTINE GOLF CLUB
NATIONAL SLAVERY MUSEUM
Buttermilk & Old Lace restaurant