Salisbury Rising 2019: John McClellan upbeat on area’s continued potential

John McClellan.

For this week’s edition featuring the Salisbury Rising special section, we put five important questions to John McClellan of SVN-Miller Commercial Realtors.

Q. As a top commercial real estate authority, you are uniquely positioned to know what’s going on in the Salisbury market. What are you seeing?

A. We are seeing some new construction but, in many cases, we are seeing adaptive repurposing of buildings for different or improved uses than they may have originally been intended.  Three examples are the new Chesapeake Urology Office and Surgical Center in the long-shuttered Rite Aid on Mount Hermon Road, the former BB&T branch which underwent massive renovations for use as a new branch for Provident State Bank, and the Naylor Mill Business Center near the Parker Athletic complex.

That project sat largely vacant for many years until a bankruptcy sale allowed a new developer to simply give the buildings “some love”.  In only three months, we have secured four long-term tenants moving occupancy well above 30 percent. Many of the clients we work with are considering if new construction or finding a great opportunity for repurposing is a better choice for their individual use.  Each location is an example of the savings in time and money that can many times be found using an existing structure versus building new. We believe this trend will continue and presently have several similar projects under way.       

Q. The growth slated for the South Salisbury Boulevard corridor is pretty significant.

A. South Salisbury Boulevard is anchored by two institutions that are truly a blessing for our community.  Peninsula Regional Medical Center continues to expand their footprint as well as medical services and, in many cases, demolish some blighted properties.  On the south side, the continuing growth of Salisbury University and their upcoming expansion into the former Court Plaza site will continue to drastically alter the landscape of South Salisbury.  These institutions draw significant numbers of people to the area creating opportunities for retail, service and banking users to benefit from their impact. Among the recent and planned projects are the new Starbucks (now owned by a California investor), the proposed “new” Wendy’s which is being planned to replace the old Wendy’s at College Avenue, and the recently completed student housing renovation project “The Perch.”

We are working with several other land and building owners who are seeking an objective understanding as to the long-term best use of their property.

Q. You’re constantly dealing with people outside the market who might be interested in coming here. What pitch do you make to aid in their decision making and help raise interest in investing here?

A. My primary stress is the regional service they can reach in the Salisbury MSA.  Of course, this region comprises four counties, including Sussex, but being named “Salisbury,” helps us bring focus to the city and then to the region.  I also hit on quality of life, regional powerhouses like, PRMC, SU, Perdue Farms, Wallops Island, and the rapidly improving Salisbury airport. Many of the tertiary markets that companies consider cannot offer those features

Q. There’s talk of an economic downturn, possibly next year. Are you seeing anything? What makes us more-able to weather an economic decline?

A. The “Great Recession of 2008” affected all of us.  However, one of the strengths in this region is the economic diversity in that we are not overly committed to one industry.  The strengths found in agriculture, education, health care, electronics, maritime transport and construction as well as tourism help us to weather an economic slowdown.  Unlike 2008, I don’t see nearly as much speculative residential or commercial construction nor do we have many large vacancies.  

Q. In the years since you’ve lived here, do you see our quality-of-life conditions improving?

A. I don’t believe that I will ever be a “local” — even though I have been in Salisbury for 35 years — I will always be a “come here.”  However, I am more excited for our city and the overall region than I have been in many years. When I speak to community and business groups, one of regular expectations is that Salisbury will continue to be found.  With strong institutions, events like the National Folk Festival, nearby access to the beaches and the bays, and a fairly temperate climate. As larger metro areas become more congested and less family friendly, I think more families, small and mid-sized companies as well as students deciding to stay will “find” Salisbury.

Our messaging has to be positive and we have to work together to solve problems and perceived negative perceptions.

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