By Steve Dwyer
On the hierarchy of best practices for urban reuse and redevelopment, there are obvious, essential touchstones: Vision, collaboration, flexibility, fund-raising acumen—and you comprehend them well.
How about “perseverance?” It’s not often appreciated in the brownfields redevelopment realm as an essential element for achieving the endgame. But think about how many projects didn’t move forward over the years because stakeholders had no other choice but to cut and run. There are a host of case examples to cite. Oft-times, a project that was snuffed out after beginning to move through the development cycle occurred from extenuating circumstances—ones outside the control of the stakeholders.
A $39 million project in Clarion County, Pa—the GlassWorks Business Park—has had a long and protracted history—and a positive outcome as it was announced that construction finally commenced in June.
This project entails converting a 28.5-acre brownfield site, formerly housing the Owens-Illinois Glass Plant, into a compound with seven building pads ready for development.
“After five years of planning, we’re finally to a point where we can bring opportunity back to Clarion,” said Theron L. Miles, Owner and Project Director at Miles Brothers LLC, in a statement. “When the glass plant closed, our community suffered a devastating loss. This impacted not only the employees that worked on this property but our entire economy. Today marks a new beginning for our town to achieve growth and prosperity. The GlassWorks Business Park would still be only a vision without the help and support we’ve received from our political leaders and the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.”
Property owner Miles Brothers LLC and the Clarion County Industrial Development Authority partnered to develop the land into seven pads suitable for office, warehouse, or light industrial use by installing utilities, lighting, and water and sewer infrastructure and excavating, grading, and paving the sites. DCED has committed a $1.03 million Business in Our Sites grant and a $4. 25 million for Business in Our Sites low-interest loan to the project that Miles Brothers credits for enabling the project to happen.
At its peak, more than 1,500 Clarion-area residents worked in the Owens-Illinois Glass Plant, which manufactured a variety of glass containers like jars and bottles. It closed in 2010 after 105 years in the community, and the facility was partially demolished in 2012, leaving behind a brownfield site that requires extensive remediation.
“This is a great example of a community turning a significant challenge, the closing of the glass plant in 2010, into an opportunity for an economic driver for the entire region,” Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary Davin said. “Governor Wolf is committed to ensuring Clarion and Pennsylvania as a whole is a great place for all residents to live and work, and this project supports critical job growth that will enable members of the Clarion community to work locally and continue to live in the place they have called home.”
Many with a stake know that the result of the closing of the glass plant in 2010 was devastating to not only Clarion Borough, but all of Clarion County. But thanks to all the touchstones involved in reuse and redevelopment that were well executed—including stick-to-itiveness—the clarion call in Clarion County was heard.
EDITOR’S NOTE: If you have other stories about former glass plants, please share them with BCONE. We know that the glass industry was huge throughout our geographic footprint, including Southern NJ and upstate NY.