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Lindley Estes is a business writer for The Free Lance-Star and This blog is on Fredericksburg-area business. Send an e-mail to Lindley Estes.

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Investors see opportunity at Westpark center in Spotsylvania

Bemoaning traffic on State Route 3 is a common pastime in the Fredericksburg area. But to Northern Virginia real estate investor Rob Borris, the gridlock signaled opportunity.

A couple of years ago Borris drove to Fredericksburg to check out an office development in Spotsylvania County called the Westpark Corporate Center.

Borris knows Tom Sandlin, who at the time was involved with Westpark. The development had run into troubles amid the recession, and Borris saw a possible chance to purchase the complex at a good price.

Borris was familiar with Fredericksburg from previous visits downtown, but he was “blown away” at the amount of commercial activity he saw while scouting  Westpark. He thought the suburban office project on Maple Grove Drive behind Gander Mountain and Bed Bath & Beyond was well-planned, offering flexibility and ample parking. And he liked the region’s growing population, qualified labor market, well-placed location and economic base.

Borris kept track of the development after that visit. Cardinal Bank foreclosed on the undeveloped portions of the property in February. In September, Borris and fellow real estate investors Menard Doswell IV and Menard Doswell V purchased the property from Cardinal for $2.73 million. They set aside money to pay for landscaping and other improvements at Westpark, and to help recruit new businesses.

Development on Westpark started in the mid-2000s. There are now three buildings each with about 20,000 square feet. A planned fourth building with about 38,000 square feet has not been built at the complex, and much of the developed space remains vacant.

Some of the developed space, including one of the buildings in its entirety, has already been sold to investors and businesses that have located there. The foreclosure did not affect that space. Borris and his partners bought about 7,000 square feet in one of the buildings, one entire 20,000-square-foot building and the land for the larger fourth building.

Fredericksburg-area ophthalmologist Dr. Binoy Jani recently purchased about 3,500 square feet of space at Westpark that will serve as the new area office for his company, Vista Eye Specialists. Borris and his partners are working with Vakos Real Estate to find two more tenants to purchase about 1,800 square feet each in the remainder of the building.

The vacant 20,000-square-foot building will be for lease rather than sale; Borris said they have several prospects. They’d like to find an anchor tenant — perhaps a local business looking for a headquarters — to lease the majority of the planned larger building.