Updated: Nov 20, 2020
I got the opportunity to meet the Developer, Velocity Companies, on the redevelopment of Hampton Park, located in Capitol Heights, Maryland. Check out the conversation with Garfield Antonio, Chief Financial Officer, of Velocity Companies.
1. Greg: What’s your experience being a Black Developer?
Garfield: Being a Real Estate Developer has at times come with a negative connotation. In some markets there is a strong belief that developers are not vested in the communities where they build. The perception is they’re only in a location to profit and that they will not deliver on promises made to the people of the community.
At Velocity, we deliver on our promises. Our word is our bond to the community because we are truly committed and actually live and work in the places where we develop. At Velocity, we want to be judged by the finished development product; a kind of before and after effect! We want to change the negative perceptions about local African American developers and also educate our communities about the real estate development process and the significant economic impacts that result. The African American Community needs to support developers who come from and serve our communities. Equally, African American developers should must also hold themselves to the highest standard of excellence because our communities deserve nothing less.
2. Greg: What’s your background? How did you get into development?
Garfield: I grew up in New York. I attended Delaware State University and graduated with a BS in Marketing, Class of 1990 ~ Go Hornets! I struggled my freshman and sophomore year making the transition to college. Going to a HBCU, the teachers and professors nurtured and cared about students! Mr. Caldwell, my marketing Professor and faculty advisor, came to my dorm room once when I missed his 9am class, to tell me “young man, I’m not going to allow you to flunk out of my class, or Del State.” That was a game changer for me! And, it helped to reshape my thinking and my work ethic for the future.
After college I went on to work for Riggs Bank and Mercantile Bank which are now PNC Bank for 15 years. I was in the Corporate and Commercial Real Estate Group. My neighbors at the time, Brandon Bellamy and Carl Williams, worked for a Community Development Corporation, which specialized in affordable housing. Carl thought that I should join their organization as the Chief Financial Officer. And, after some soul searching, I took him up on the offer. I joined St Paul Community Development Corporation in 2005 and got bitten by the real estate development bug. In 2008, the Great Recession hit and there were limited financing options for apartment development. There were no projects happening and the organization was struggling during this time. Brandon had a Jerry McGuire moment and wrote a white paper on how he wanted to change the dynamics of private development companies with the ethos of the community development company. We could do well while doing good! Having a successful business model while helping others does not have to be a mutually exclusive endeavor. I proffered the pledge to operate with excellence. And our third partner, Marc Antonio, added a promise to undertake every project with love. If we love the work we do, and we love the community we’re doing it for, then we can ensure quality results! But, if we dislike what we’re doing or who we’re doing it for, every time there’s a major obstacle we could potentially back out or fail. That’s how we started Velocity Companies.
Our first development client under the Velocity brand was with The Sanctuary at Kingdoms Square headed by Pastor Anthony Maclin. He gave us our first shot as a new enterprise and we presented him with our expertise and unwavering commitment. I am forever grateful for that partnership. We turned that opportunity into the redevelopment of the former Hampton Mall. We ultimately purchased the Mall from The Sanctuary at Kingdom Square in June of last year and renamed the property to Hampton Park which is a $250 million mixed use development which is now under construction.
3. Greg: Tell me about Hampton Park.
Garfield: Velocity has been working on the Hampton Park project since 2009. The site was not zoned for mixed-use, but it was zoned for a Commercial Shopping Center C-S-C. So, we had to change the zoning to M-X-T (Mixed-Use Transportation). This was a very in-depth process and took a lengthy period of time to complete the rezoning of the property. In addition, we had to file multiple Detailed Site Plans and Conceptual Site Plans to complete entitlements. Sometimes members in the community see a project, and they think it instantly happened. There’s a lot of work behind the scenes and hundreds if not thousands of man hours to complete the civil engineering, architectural and legal work, etc. The actual construction work represents one of the final steps in a long journey.
The new Hampton Park will include a state-of-the-art office building that will house Prince George’s County Health and Human Services. The retailers will include Market Fresh Gourmet (a full-service grocery store)and Ivy City Smokehouse to name a few. Many of the existing tenants such as Everlasting Life, Dunkin Donuts and IHOP will remain. Velocity was focused on retaining as many local businesses in the project as possible. Companies that have been at this location for a number of years should have the opportunity to be a part of this new epicenter of commerce. Other tenants will be announced in the future and the project is about two years out from completion.
4. Greg: Are Home Depot, Panda Express, and the BP and Exxon gas stations part of the redevelopment?
Garfield: No, those parcels of land are separately owned. The hotel is its own parcel and the owner of the hotel is a friendly operator who is looking forward to the dynamic new community currently being built. Home Depot has been one of our biggest advocates and has helped the project along on several fronts, and they are a great neighbor. Everything east of the hotel and Home Depot is part of our development.
5. Greg: Is Home Depot planning to renovate the store? How do they plan to deal with the litter and trash?
Garfield: We continue to work with Home Depot. As a Property Owner, we want to ensure a clean and litter free environment. We want to create a Hampton Park business owner’s association with the goal of beautifying the neighborhood. This is a tall order, but the Velocity Companies is fully committed to Capitol Heights and the Hampton Park neighborhood. The business owner’s association would function similar to downtown DC, like Georgetown and Gallery Place.
It’s no secret that Maryland has a dumping issue. When Prince George’s County was shut down due to the pandemic, we saw an increase in bulk dumping at several of our properties, as bulk trash services were limited. It’s a constant battle. But, bulk dumping is a fixable problem. We can increase the fines and penalties for bulk dumping and those highly prone areas could have live cameras installed and that would help alleviate that problem.