HANOVER TWP. — Two properties where waste rock from coal processed at the Huber Breaker once accumulated are close to being sold and transformed into sites for at least three businesses projected to employ as many as 1,100 people.
The state’s Commonwealth Financing Authority on Tuesday agreed to provide a $3.5 million Business in Our Sites loan to TC NE Metro Development Inc. of Conshohocken.
That company, a subsidiary of the Texas-based Trammell Crow Co., plans to acquire the two sites, totalling 169 acres, from the Earth Conservancy and invest nearly $63.4 million to establish the Hanover Ridge Trade Center, according to state Rep. Jerry Mullery.
The 2-percent, 20-year loan from the state is to be used for site developments and infrastructure improvements including traffic signals, road improvements, site grading, road paving and water and sewer improvements. The project is expected to create more than 1,100 jobs, according to the state.
The properties are near the entrance of the Hanover Industrial Estates along New Commerce Boulevard off Hanover Street.
“This strategic state investment will help turn what once was a barren site into an area that will be an ideal location for industry, warehouses and manufacturers,” Mullery, D-Newport Township, said. “I’m especially pleased that we are reusing a former brownfields site for economic development.”
Mike Dziak, the president and chief executive officer of the Earth Conservancy, said the potential for a sale and development of those properties help his organization achieve its original goal of “reclaiming mine land.”
“It’s an exciting thing for this area,” Dziak said. “It was garbage land, totally mined out. It’s an exciting thing for us. It will be our largest sale in our history and shows reclaiming mine land is an investment in our future.”
The Earth Conservancy purchased the 82-acre Huber III site in August 1994 from Glen Alden/Blue Coal Co. during a time silt was being mined. A few years ago, Dziak said, TC NE Metro Development Inc. approached Earth Conservancy about acquiring the tract for development.
While those negotiations were going on, Dziak said the Earth Conservancy purchased the 87-acre Huber IV site in July 2009 for $900,000 and work to reclaim it was completed in July 2012. Since that time, TC NE Metro Development Inc. also expressed an interest in that adjoining tract and the Earth Conservancy agreed to negotiate its sale, too.
Dziak said negotiations are ongoing and while there are purchase options in place, no closing date has been set, though there are indications it could close by year end or early next year. No tenants are signed on, though early plans call for construction of a 1.25 million-square-foot warehouse-industrial building and two distribution buildings, one 309,000 square feet and the other 345,000 square feet.
“This is a very strong project, and I am very pleased to see state funds working to bring business to NEPA,” said state Sen. John Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township.
Lyndsay Frank, a spokewoman for the state’s Department of Community and Economic Development, said the loan agreement goes through only if the land is sold.
Signs on the properties have already been posted by Trammell Crow offering buildings for lease or sale with the phone number of TC NE Metro Development Inc.’s Vice President Andrew Mele listed as the contact. A message left for Mele after business hours Tuesday was not immediately returned.
With the pending sale of these two properties, the Earth Conservancy will have but two tracts left of the 1,600 acres of former mine land that it’s spent $31 million on reclaiming: One is 11 acres, the other 3 acres.
Just last month, a federal bankruptcy judge permitted the sale of the Huber Breaker that will likely be demolished for scrap, ending efforts to restore the mammoth structure in Ashley.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge John J. Thomas on Aug. 22 awarded a $1.25 million bid by Paselo Logistics LLC, with an address listed on court records as 221 12th St., Philadelphia, during an auction in the federal courthouse in Wilkes-Barre.
During its heyday, the Huber Breaker produced 1,000 tons of coal an hour and 7,000 tons a day, according to Ray Clarke, chairman of The Huber Breaker Preservation Society. According to the preservation society’s website, the breaker was constructed in 1938 and ended operations in 1976.