Larry Maggi, lifelong resident and longtime commissioner of Washington County, takes pride in his home turf and promotes it vigorously.
The forsaken, forlorn Brockway Glass site often dimmed his rose-colored view.
“I remember passing it a couple of times a day (en route to the courthouse), and passing it while patrolling when I was a state trooper,” he said. “That area is a gateway to Washington County, which we’ve been promoting. But that area became an eyesore.
“When visitors were coming from the west on I-70, they were looking up and seeing a big, ugly brownfield with a building that had windows broken out. I would cringe every day while passing it.”
Not anymore. The 20 acres on which Brockway operated into the 1980s is no longer a big, ugly brownfield. Crossgates Inc., a Peters Township-based real estate development company, looked at the shattered windows and saw a window of opportunity.
For the past two years-plus, amid COVID-related delays, that firm has overseen the demolition of old structures, and the remediation, remake and resurrection of a Canton Township property that is now fraught with promise.
“We’ve completed demolition, put in all of the infrastructure and we’re wrapping up all of the site work. It’s pad ready. Now we have to do vertical development,” Crossgates President Ryan Schwotzer said.
“We’re optimistic that it will turn into a pretty good project.”
Vertical development of a light-industrial building is ahead, and that translates to tenants, of which there currently are none. Schwotzer, however, said, “We’ve been talking to a few groups, determining what we will build in terms of size.”
Not being Nostradamus, he could not pinpoint a specific time for development, but is optimistic that “we will get this off the ground before the end of the year.”
Schwotzer said the plan is “to design a building to house different types of industries – from light manufacturing to warehousing to logistics companies. We’re trying to cover all sectors, so there are no limitations on that site.”
Crossgates has worked with the Washington County Redevelopment Authority on this project, which has required several millions of dollars in public funding. The money has come from a mix that includes state Redevelopment Capital Assistance Program grants, Washington County Local Share Account funds plus a low-interest loan from the state.
The property was purchased in 2015 by Running Brooke II Associates – which is owned by Crossgates – for a recorded price of $475,000.
Glass manufacturing, once the industrial backbone of the greater Washington area, was introduced to the site in 1907 when Hazel-Atlas Glass built a plant. Brockway eventually acquired the location and operated there before shuttering it in the 1980s.
Some of the Brockway property endures, though. The rail spur, for possible transport of goods, is still there, as is a smokestack from more than a century ago, which could quality for historical designation.
Bill McGowen, executive director of the Redevelopment Authority, is gratified by what he sees there and said the project is a textbook example of how a public-private endeavor should work.
“You have to get down there and look at it,” he said. “They’ve done a nice job in getting the site pad ready. Now we need a good company to move in.”
The property, according to Maggi, is now praiseworthy instead of cringe-worthy.
“I feel we have a lot of good projects going on in Washington County, and this is one of the most prominent on the list. It’s exactly the type of space we need. We need light-industrial spots.
“Now instead of an eyesore, I see this as something that is moving forward.”