State grants go to Chapman Properties, Washington business incubator

Katie Anderson
Observer Reporter

Chapman Properties will receive a $1 million state grant to develop the Chapman Southport Business Park at Racetrack Road and Tanger Boulevard in South Strabane Township.

State Rep. Brandon Neuman, D-North Strabane, announced the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant, stating the site includes 158 acres, with “350,000 square feet of office space, 225,000 square feet for light manufacturing and 100,000 square feet for retail and hospitality.”

President and CEO of Chapman Properties Tony Rosenberger said the grant would mostly be used to develop sewer, water and electric service at the site. He said the company filed for that grant a year ago, long before it filed a lawsuit in October against South Strabane over the property.

In its petition, Chapman claimed the township blocked plastics manufacturer Ensinger Inc. from developing on part of the site by not taking over Tanger Boulevard and the proposed Southport Road as township roads. As a result, Ensinger decided to remain in North Strabane Township and terminated its deal with Chapman.

Chapman’s petition seeks compensation for losses in that deal and for the township’s rejection of Chapman’s conditional-use application to build a light manufacturing and office facility that would have become Ensinger’s North American headquarters. The plans called for a $40 million complex on 30 acres of C-3 commercially zoned land.

In 2015, Chapman successfully petitioned the township supervisors to add light manufacturing to C-3 commercial districts to allow for Ensinger’s development.

Rosenberger said he could not comment on much of the latest project because of the litigation with South Strabane. He said the company does not yet have tenants for the site and won’t be able to move forward with finding any until it resolves the legal dispute.

“We’re absolutely happy to get the grant,” he said. “The release of the grant has nothing to do with the lawsuit. The intention is to do the infrastructure work no matter what.”

South Strabane Township Manager Brandon Stanick could not be reached Tuesday for comment on the grant.

In addition to Chapman’s $1 million grant, Washington & Jefferson College received $500,000 in Redevelopment Assistance Capital money to start construction on the Greater Washington Area Business Incubator.

The small-business project was announced last year and was initiated by W&J in partnership with the Observer Publishing Co., which offered its former circulation building on South Main Street as well as its unused pressroom on Strawberry Way to the college rent-free for 10 years. The incubator would charge start-ups rent to take space in the building.

The $500,000 will be used for construction on the buildings, specifically for structural, plumbing, HVAC, electrical and fire protection renovations, according to Neuman’s news release.

“The business incubator will be a boon for small businesses and entrepreneurs in the area and is a great reuse of resources,” Neuman said in a prepared statement.

The incubator project has received $250,000 from Washington County’s Local Share Account, as well as support from local foundations and businesses. The project is expected to cost a total of $2.5 million and is expected to be up and running by late next year or early 2019.