Deal to buy former Richland flower company site wilts
The Allegheny Land Trust no longer plans to buy — at least for now — the 180-acre former site of Pittsburgh Cut Flower Co. in Richland.
Trust officials had hoped to acquire the acreage for recreation, but the current owners — Legacy Landings LLC — no longer wish to sell the land, said Chris Beichner, president and CEO of the Allegheny Land Trust.
“We had what we felt was a verbal agreement with the sellers to buy it,” Beichner said. “We had a price identified. We had a closing date identified.
“We spent money to have our attorney put it in writing — and then a few days later we got an abrupt email saying that the property is no longer for sale,” Beichner said.
“The seller is a New York City developer,” Beichner said. “We've been told that they can develop this property, even though many developers have come and gone. ... They have said they are willing to sit on it and see what happens.”
Lawyer Jeffrey Letwin of Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis, the downtown Pittsburgh law firm, declined to comment on behalf of the Legacy Landings.
“We feel that we lost in the short term, but there's still a potential opportunity to protect the property ...” Beichner said.
“There are a lot of things that can go into play over the next couple of years. We hope we'll be back here again, talking about acquiring the property in the long run.”
Land trust officials recently shared their disappointment in 350 letters to the donors of $1.9 million already collected to buy the land. The sum includes approximately $1 million in state grants and $65,000 in community contributions.
“Since March 28, we've been on the phone quite a bit, calling elected officials and talking to major investors and giving them the news,” Beichner said. “We've been talking to them about repurposing their conservation dollars and putting them into other projects.
“We think we have a lot of other great projects that we could put the money towards,” Beichner said. “But money already donated by individuals, including Richland-area residents and business owners, will be restricted for use in funding future projects in Richland.”
Until late last month, Allegheny Land Trust expected to purchase the former site of Pittsburgh Cut Flower Co. for $2.4 million, including $1.3 million for the land's appraised value and $1.1 million for the estimated cost of the site's cleanup.
In early 2013, Mid-Atlantic Environmental Consultants began coordinating multiple contractors hired to clean up the property's asbestos contamination after vandals broke into the site's former greenhouses and disturbed insulation around pipes in the greenhouses.
Since then, the contractors have removed the site's 12 greenhouses, including a number along Bakerstown Road.
“The good thing is the eyesore got cleaned up,” said Herb Dankmyer, president of the Richland Township supervisors.
Beichner said Legacy Landings officials wanted the Allegheny Land Trust to buy the property before a final inspection for contaminants.
“They wanted us to buy the property ‘as is,' but we have a responsibility to our funders and people who utilize our property (for recreation),” Beichner said. “We need to do our site inspection and make sure that the property is safe and that hazards have been removed.
“The (federal) Environment Protection Agency still needs to review the site and sign off it, saying that it's up to their standards,” Beichner said.
In February, the trust bought 8.4 acres of land next to the site in anticipation of ultimately incorporating the 8.4 acres into a 1,000-acre area for hiking from North Park in McCandless to Bakerstown Road in Pine. The loss of the Pittsburgh Cut Flower Co. property does not affect those plans.
“We want to thank the community for their enduring support,” Beichner said. “It is with great regret that we make this announcement, but we're looking forward to pursuing other projects in the Richland community.”
Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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