Berkshire Development has evolved with retail trends to be become the “go-to” developer for large retailers.
Stephen O’Kane

In Clinton, New Jersey, Berkshire plans to develop a 225,000-square-foot hybrid center called Round Valley Commons, featuring approximately 125,000 square feet of dominant box retailers and 100,000 square feet of lifestyle specialty stores.

More than 20 years ago, Oscar Plotkin left his position as president of Massachusetts-based Samuel D. Plotkin & Associates Inc. to establish a new company, Berkshire Development. Over the past two decades, the company has evolved with the current development trends, always staying atop the game with new projects.

In the last few years, Plotkin assembled a top-tier executive team to move the company to the next level. What began in 1984 as an organization that created single-tenant buildings for large retailers, has blossomed into a developer focusing on multi-tenant open-air projects using the latest design concepts.

Currently serving on Berkshire Development’s executive team are George Demuth, chief operating officer; John Phelan, director of leasing; and Bill McCollum, chief investment officer, all of which spoke with Northeast Real Estate Business to discuss what is happening with Berkshire Development as of 2007. Each member of the team has approximately 25 years of experience in the real estate industry and has been involved with several retail projects, from strip centers to malls to downtown redevelopment.

Berkshire Development sets itself apart from many developers in the industry through its extensive research methods. The company spends a lot of time learning about its prospective markets and strives to find those areas with a retail void that would benefit from a new development. Berkshire Development uses its experience and expertise to fill that need with quality, state-of-the-art projects. However, the company does not stop there. Through its relations with several national tenants, the company is aware of what these retailers are looking for and can create the type of environment that the companies want to be involved with. Berkshire Development is willing and able to cater to tenants as well as consumers.

Opening fall 2008 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Granite Town Center will span approximately 200,000 square feet of space anchored by a sporting goods retailer.

One of the markets that is in need of quality retail is Amherst, New Hampshire. Berkshire Development is currently creating a presence in that market as well with its planned Amherst Crossing located along Route 101A approximately 10 miles from Nashua, New Hampshire. Amherst Crossing will span up to 130,000 square feet and will feature a hybrid land ownership model, comprising several long-term ground leases in addition to land purchased and owned by Berkshire Development.

The company also is gearing up to utilize many of the new “green” concepts coming into play in retail development. One aspect that Berkshire Development will use in its Amherst Crossing is a new eco-friendly permeable asphalt for its parking lot. The company hopes to incorporate other concepts in its future developments.

Berkshire Development does not focus solely on new retail centers. The company also expresses an interest in redevelopments, giving them a wider range of opportunities while gaining experience in several types of retail development.

With two offices is Massachusetts — Boston and Springfield — Berkshire Development plans to keep the focus on the East Coast for now, but is seeking out joint venture opportunities elsewhere.

“We are still oriented on a regional basis to further research and seek out development land,” says Demuth. “In addition to seeking ground to entitle and develop on our own, we are working with some other companies on joint venture approaches to development. We also are active in seeking redevelopment projects — either old uses that are not the best use for a site, taking away old industrial uses in favor of a new lifestyle center project or the more traditional taking of an older well-located strip center and doing a redevelopment or a demalling type project.”

Berkshire Development, which currently has two projects under construction and four projects in the approval process, hopes to boost that number over the next few years. According to the executive team, the company’s goal is to be building at least 8 to 10 centers a year, during the next 3 to 5 years. These centers are planned to range in size from 100,000 square feet up to 600,000 square feet.

Whether the property is new or old, Berkshire Development has the experience to make it into something successful. With an experienced staff and an ambitious attitude, the company is quickly becoming the go-to developer for large-scale retail.

©2007 France Publications, Inc. Duplication or reproduction of this article not permitted without authorization from France Publications, Inc. For information on reprints of this article contact Barbara Sherer at (630) 554-6054.

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