|By Henry J. Holcomb, The Philadelphia Inquirer
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Sep. 28, 2005 - A New York developer with Philadelphia roots will announce today that his firm will build a resort community along the Delaware River in New Jersey with an executive conference center, restaurants and residences.
The Riverwinds complex, scheduled to open in late 2007, will be next to the RiverWinds Community Center and the 7,100-yard public golf course that opened in 2002 in West Deptford Township, Gloucester County, directly across the river from Philadelphia International Airport.
The development continues a riverfront building boom in six New Jersey and Pennsylvania counties.
"During the week, it will be an executive conference center, competing with the Greenbrier in West Virginia and Pinehurst in North Carolina," said Mark Magarity, chief executive officer of Sentry Hospitality Ltd., of New York, the developer. "It will have 30,000 square feet of meeting space and all the bells and whistles of the highest-rated conference centers."
"On weekends," Magarity said, "it will be a resort where parents can put their kids in a camp, and play golf or go to the spa."
Its 11,000-square-foot ballroom will offer views of the Philadelphia skyline and be available for major weddings and events, he said.
The 250-room hotel and conference center will cost about $60 million. The entire complex, including the community center and golf course, is a $260 million project, Magarity said.
Magarity, whose father, Bill Magarity, owns a Ford dealership in Chestnut Hill and Chevrolet dealership in Flourtown, Montgomery County, founded Sentry Hospitality in 1993.
His firm has formed a partnership with Mike McBride, chief executive officer of Namwest L.L.C., of Phoenix, to develop the 435 residential units in the complex, which will include single-family, apartment and luxury condominium units.
The price range has not been set, McBride said.
"We have a similar project in Scottsdale, Ariz. It will be like a mini-city, an urban village," McBride said, speaking by telephone from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, where he was waiting for a flight to Philadelphia for the announcement ceremony today.
The 1,100-acre site was created more than 30 years ago with soil dredged from the Delaware River, Township Administrator Gerald White said. It was designated for a time as a disposal site for more dredge material from the proposed deepening of the river channel, a move that township residents opposed.
The largest portion of the development site, about 620 acres, was purchased by West Deptford Township in 1999, for $5.5 million, from Tenneco Corp., which acquired the property in the 1960s as a site for a liquefied natural gas plant that was never built, White said.
The township hired Wallace Roberts & Todd L.L.C., the Philadelphia planning and design firm, to develop a master plan for the property, and it came up with the concept of a mixed-use urban village built around the conference center and resort.
The township then sought proposals from developers, and Magarity's firm was selected. It paid the township $14 million for the 48 acres it will develop.
"It was the best location in the Middle-Atlantic region I could find. It is just 20 minutes from the airport and Center City, two hours from New York City," Magarity said.
West Deptford Mayor Anna Docimo said the conference center and resort would strengthen the economy of her township and "prove to be an important asset for the the entire Delaware Valley."
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