Grant awarded for Brooke Glass

WELLSBURG – The Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle and the Pittsburgh-based Riverside Center for Innovation have been awarded a $370,000 grant from the Claude W. Benedum Foundation for the development of 14 sites in Brooke and Hancock counties and Western Pennsylvania.

Leaders of the two groups gathered outside the former Brooke Glass factory on Sixth Street Monday to announce the new partnership.

Pat Ford, BDC executive director, said Brooke Glass is one of the 14 sites the two groups hope to make ready for development with the help of the three-year grant.

The others include the Wheeling Corrugating Plant in Beech Bottom, former Jimmy Carey Stadium in Weirton, Newell Memorial Stadium and the former Taylor, Smith & Taylor pottery site in Chester, as well as seven sites in Allegheny and Beaver counties being pursued by the Riverside Center for Innovation.

Ford said the BDC is considering either the AL Solutions or Crescent Brick properties in New Cumberland for inclusion in the effort.

The TS&T site has been the focus of a $1.1 million rehabilitation effort in recent years. Ford said some remediation still is needed along the riverbank there.

He said the BDC hopes to generate $20 million in investments and 300 permanent jobs at the sites over the next three years. He believes Brooke Glass is the most prepared development and is likely to be ready for a business in 12 to 14 months.

Ford said representatives of the natural gas and oil industries as well as transportation logistics have expressed interest.

Ford said in addition to teaming with Riverfront to secure the grant, the BDC hopes to tap into Riverfront’s experience in securing financing, including loans and grants, for development of unused industrial sites.

Ford said the BDC can offer its own experience in acquiring such property. The Brooke Glass site is its latest acquisition and one of several to be targeted with the Benedum grant.

Pat Kirby, director of the Northern West Virginia Brownfield Assistance Center, said the grant may be used in planning environmental assessments, infrastructure such as access roads and utility lines and other measures needed to support development.

Ford said the money also may be used toward local matches for environmental assessment grants for each site. He said the BDC will seek a $75,000 grant for a Phase 2 environmental assessment, which involves analyzing core samples and other physical examination of the site.

Working with the brownfield assistance center, the Brooke-Hancock Regional Planning and Development Council, the economic development arm of the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission, secured a $5,000 grant from the Benedum Foundation for the Phase 1 assessment.

John Brown, BHJ executive director, said of the newest Benedum grant, “It’s a big step for the whole brownfield program.”

Often working with the brownfield assistance center and BDC, the council has secured $1 million in grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the assessment of 26 properties in Hancock and Brooke counties.

Ryan Weld, chairman of the Wellsburg Urban Redevelopment Authority, said Brooke Glass is one of several sites being targeted by the board and city officials.

“This project is a sign we’re moving forward with a lot of projects, not just Brooke Glass,” he said.

Working with the Brooke-Hancock Regional Council, the city also has secured a $6,000 grant for an environmental assessment of the former Mammoth Plastic/Genpak site on Charles Street.

Mayor Sue Simonetti and Ed Bowman, regional representative of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, applauded the efforts of the groups involved.

Ford noted the endeavor also was supported by the West Virginia Division of Environmental Protection, U.S. EPA and the Rithner family, who owns the property.

Henry Rithner III, former president of Brooke Glass, noted the factory was built in 1897 by the former Riverside Glass and later used by National Glass before his grandfather, Henry Rithner I, purchased it for his company, Crescent Glass, in 1908. The company manufactured glass there for more than 90 years, becoming Brooke Glass in 1980, before closing its doors in 2004.

Rithner said he will be happy to see the building used productively again instead of being the target of vandals.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com)