St. John Properties kicks off 47-acre expansion of $1.2B Utah project

Baltimore Business Journal | Melody Simmons

The march of Maryland developers into other U.S. markets continues as St. John Properties this month enlisted the governor of Utah to help kick off a 47-acre expansion of a $1.2 billion development in the state.

The private Woodlawn-based firm this week started work on the sixth phase of Valley Grove, located north of Provo. The project will include luxury residential units, Class A office and commercial space flanked by a pedestrian promenade. The sprawling development launched in 2016 on 128 acres in Pleasant Grove, formerly called Battle Creek, which was first settled by Mormon pioneers in 1850.

Valley Grove and the other St. John Properties business communities are among the state’s brightest stars for growth,” Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said at a groundbreaking ceremony this week. “This central hub of Pleasant Grove is charting the course for continued prosperity in top-ranked Utah Valley. St. John Properties is at the center of this expansion.”

The accolades underscore St. John’s expansion outside Maryland. The five-decade-old firm today is developing in 11 states and has spread out in Utah with four regional projects. Founder Ed St. John said that 60% of the firm’s ongoing projects are based outside of Maryland because it is not as business-friendly as other states like North Carolina and Utah.

St. John Properties is aiming to build more than 1 million square feet of spec projects, including 325,000 square feet of office space despite ongoing turmoil in the market. The company moved into two new markets in 2022: Austin, Texas, and Raleigh, North Carolina. In April, St. John opened an office in Tampa. St. John is one of several Maryland real estate companies that have expanded beyond the state’s borders for growth, including Merritt Properties, Greenberg Gibbons and MCB Real Estate.

The Valley Grove project is part of a sweeping development by St. John in its western region. When built out, the development will hold more than 1.5 million square feet of Class A office, flex and research and development space alongside retail and residential. The project is expected to attract 10,000 employees.

Daniel Thomas, a regional partner for St. John in Utah, said the firm has leased more than 90% of the space already developed at the site.

“This next phase of Valley Grove will symbolize and encompass the affinity and gratitude that we have for this amazing community,” Thomas said Wednesday in a statement.

St. John’s 52-year-old portfolio includes more than 3,000 residential units and over 23 million square feet of office, flex, retail, research and development and warehouse space.

Among the developer’s local projects is the 1,000-acre Greenleigh in Middle River, which is modeled after Howard County’s successful Maple Lawn community. Greenleigh sits near Interstate 95 and Route 43 and ultimately will hold 740,000 square feet of Class A office space, 1,900 residential units, 828,000 square feet of flex space and 197,000 square feet of retail.