BERLIN – Officials will meet Monday to consider two $1 million-plus offers for portions of Heron Park.
A mixed-use development featuring 78 single family homes and a commercial development featuring an amphitheater have been proposed by the companies that submitted bids for the disposition and development of Heron Park. The Berlin Town Council will review the proposals and possibly come to a decision on how to move forward at a meeting Monday at 6 p.m.
“Following that point hopefully we’ll have an idea of the direction the town would like to go,” Mayor Zack Tyndall said.
Though the town had initially scheduled a closed session meeting to discuss the two Heron Park proposals received, following open meeting concerns expressed by a resident, officials announced Thursday that Monday night’s meeting would be held in open session, immediately prior to the regularly scheduled council meeting. Tyndall and councilmembers will discuss proposals submitted by Gillis Gilkerson and Natelli Communities.
Both proposals were scored by town staff. The Gillis Gilkerson proposal, which would give the town $1.5 million for three parcels—parcel 410, 57 and 191—would involve partial demolition of the existing structures and would be entirely commercial. It earned a score of 90.
The proposal from Natelli Communities, which would give the town $1.6 million and five parcels valued at about $444,000, is a mix of commercial and residential space. It earned a score of 100.
“Both are attractive projects and will represent a significant impact on the Town’s tax base, but will also have impact on Town services; both developers have a good reputation with successful projects in and around the area,” the staff evaluation reads.
The Gillis Gilkerson proposal outlines the company’s plan to use the town’s $500,000 strategic demolition grant to fund a partial demolition of Heron Park’s existing structures. That demolition would leave two 25,000-square foot sections that could be renovated into multiuse commercial buildings.
“At the time of this response, we foresee a desire for many new and existing businesses to open at this location,” the proposal reads. “We visualize a vibrant and lively multiuse commercial building(s) providing a home for a plethora of businesses, events, and community to exist here. Our goal is to create a stronger public use by providing a new roadway from Old Ocean City Boulevard directly to the entrance of Heron Park. Not only do we want the community to continue the use of the park and Lagoons, we want to help foster this use and provide greater amenities for the public.”
Gillis Gilkerson plans to provide up to two acres for an amphitheater “with hopes that this will encourage a sense of community and add to the existing love of arts and entertainment” in Berlin. The proposal lists potential businesses as restaurants, a garden center, offices, parking, multiuse fields and a dog friendly park. The project’s initial phase could increase the town’s real estate taxes by $75,000-100,000, according to the proposal.
Natelli Communities, developer of Sunset Island, has submitted a proposal to acquire parcels 57 and 410 to create a mixed-use development featuring 78 single family homes and 52,000 square feet of commercial space. The developer has offered to purchase parcel 57 for $798,718 and parcel 410 for $801,282. In addition to that $1.6 million, the company would offer the town five parcels located next to Stephen Decatur Park. The company’s plan calls for demolition of all existing buildings on the parcels. Demolition costs not covered by the town’s $500,000 strategic demolition grant would be borne by the town.
The project would be completed in phases.
“The proposed project is compatible with the surrounding neighborhood, and already in an area of commercial, office and residential uses,” the proposal reads. “Old Ocean City Boulevard is predominately commercial along the road frontage. Areas to the west, including Main Street, on the north of the downtown area are predominantly residential. Incorporating mixed uses continues the pedestrian friendly concept of Berlin. The conceptual plan establishes a ‘Live, Work, Play’ community, which is in line with the town’s personality and our company’s mission.”
Officials have been exploring plans to sell at least a portion of the park property since early 2021. The 60-acre property, a former chicken processing plant, was purchased by the town for $2.5 million in 2016. The parcels that could be sold include parcel 57 (the southwest portion of the property off Old Ocean City Boulevard, adjacent to the railroad tracks and including most of the old poultry processing buildings), parcel 410 (a 10-acre rectangular portion of the property that runs behind Cropper & Sons and includes outbuildings and open space) and parcel 191, which is located in front of parcel 410 and includes a storage building.
Monday’s meeting is set for 6 p.m. at Berlin Town Hall. The meeting agenda and proposals are available here.