Former Rohm & Haas Facility Receives State Funding
LOWER GWYNEDD >> Three area projects — one in Montgomery County and two in Chester County — have been approved for millions in state funding to support redevelopment efforts.
The projects receiving funding through the Business in Our Sites, or BOS, program are the redevelopment of the former Rohm & Haas Spring House facility in Lower Gwynedd, the redevelopment of the Pennhurst Hospital site in East Vincent and restoration of the former Foote Mineral site in East Whiteland.
In all, seven projects that will create 3,300 jobs in six counties were approved for funding by the Commonwealth Financing Authority, said Gov. Tom Wolf in announcing the grants and loans.
“The Business in Our Sites program is a critical business development tool that allows us to prepare an arsenal of pad-ready sites for future business growth in Pennsylvania,” Wolf said. “The projects approved will take sites in need of redevelopment and prepare them for Pennsylvania’s businesses of tomorrow, today.”
The Chester County Economic Development Council will administer the funding for the two Chester County projects while the Redevelopment Authority of the County of Montgomery will handle the Rohm & Haas project.
The projects are:
• Developers were approved for a $4 million grant and a $8 million loan to assist with the redevelopment of the former Rohm & Haas Spring House facility. BOS funds will be used for infrastructure costs including roads, fiber optic network, underground utilities, energy efficient hot and chilled water loop, stormwater basins, sanitary and chemical pump stations, electric, and parking areas. The total project cost is $32 million and will create approximately 400 jobs, the state said.
• Pennhurst LLC was approved for a $4 million grant and a $6 million loan to assist with the redevelopment of the former Pennhurst Hospital site. BOS funds will be used for environmental remediation, demolition, roads/streets, excavation/grading, and engineering.
The cost is $13.2 million for remediation and site prep work for the project that is expected to eventually create around 600 new jobs, the state said.
• Developers of the former Foote Mineral site in East Whiteland were approved for a $4 million grant and a $6 million loan to assist with the redevelopment of a brownfield site in East Whiteland. BOS funds will be used for grading and excavation, demolition, infrastructure and in-ground utilities, foundations, and paving. The total project cost for the prep work is $16.7 million. It is expected to create about 60 new jobs, the state said.
In Montgomery County, MRA Group of Horsham purchased the Rohm & Haas property for $10 million in March from the Dow Co., which acquired Rohm & Haas in 2012.
It has rebranded the site as the Spring House Innovation Park, or SHIP, where there are 11 buildings with nearly 600,000 square feet of space.
The campus, which totals 133 acres at an interchange with the Route 309 expressway, is less than three minutes north of the Fort Washington exit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
Mike Wojewodka, senior vice president of MRA Group, said Wednesday, “we are creating a regional center of excellence.”
Plans include first class office and laboratory facilities, a campus environment with a university-affiliated presence.
Also in the plans are a boutique hotel with full amenities, co-working space with on-demand offices and shared office/conference facilities, on-site child daycare, a health/fitness center, and a retail village.
“With township, county and state support, we will continue to redevelop the campus into a best-in-class innovation park,” Wojewodka said. “The funds will allow us to replace and enhance the robust campus infrastructure including roadways, fiberoptic network, underground utilities and energy efficiency improvements.”
Derek Strine of Delaware is the developer of the Pennhurst site, which has a sordid history.
Opened in 1908, the Pennhurst State School and Hospital was closed for good Dec. 9, 1987. It was originally built to house and sterilize residents who, at the time, were referred to as having a mental deficiency. The practice of sterilization eventually ended, but the practice of segregating patients with developmental disabilities lasted much longer.
The facility was closed after courts found conditions there unsanitary, dangerous, and inhumane. Recently, it has been opened for the Halloween season as a haunted attraction that many find objectionable given the property’s notorious past.
“It’s a pretty large redevelopment project,” said Michael Grigalonis, chief operating officer of the Chester County Economic Development Council. “It’s exciting to see it re-purposed.”
Located off Route 724 near Spring City, it has 23 buildings totaling more than 600,000 square feet on it. The buildings contain asbestos, Grigalonis said of the environmental hazard there.
Strine said the developers decided residential development was out of the question for the 100-plus-acre property due to its notorious past. He plans to put industrial, commercial and medical office uses on the site.
The state, he said, left a lot of environmental and safety issues when they closed the hospital. Most of the buildings will be demolished but a “core” of six may be saved to make some sort of museum or remembrance to the former state hospital.
“It’s not something you want to forget or ignore,” said Strine, whose company is based in Wilmington, Del.
In all, Strine expects the project will have a value of about $113 million. Work, he estimated, would start sometime in 2018 after the state approves his work plan for the site.
“The goal (of the remediation work) is to make it shovel ready,” he said.
The other Chester County site to receive funding, the Foote Mineral property, is a former Superfund site where lithium leaked into the soil that’s been remediated, said one of the developers, Greg Walters.
West Chester-based Walters Co. and Roskamp Management Co. of Sarasota, Fla., are involved in the redevelopment of the property located off of Swedesford Road east of the Valley Creek Corporate Center.
Walters on Wednesday was mum on the developers’ plans for the site.
““I can’t talk about the project right now,” he said.
In 210, the Daily Local News reported the cleanup of the Foote Mineral federal Superfund site on East Swedesford Road almost complete.
The Cyprus Foote Mineral Co. processed lithium and other mineral ores from 1946 to 1991 at the site, dumping waste into pits and on the ground that subsequently contaminated the site and groundwater.
Declared a federal Superfund site in 1992, the cleanup didn’t begin until 2005 when the purchasers of the land, Frazer Exton Development, wanted to build a senior living facility on a portion of the property.
“This is a very happy time for the owners of Frazer Exton Development,” Dan Sevick, president of the company, said at the time.
Sevick, along with Walters and Charles Lyddane are listed as developers in the current project, Grigalonis said.
“We’re excited about the redevelopment of under-performing assets,” Grigalonis said of the two Chester County projects.
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