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Trib editorial: Persistence in redeveloping glass plan site pays off

| Monday, March 12, 2018, 9:00 p.m.
Jason Rigone, director of the Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corp., speaks during a ceremony to launch a remediation and demolition project at the Jeannette Glass site on Wednesday, May 31, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Jason Rigone, director of the Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corp., speaks during a ceremony to launch a remediation and demolition project at the Jeannette Glass site on Wednesday, May 31, 2017.

The Jeannette Glass plant opened in 1887 and lasted almost 100 years, employing up to 1,500 workers. Now, 35 years after its 1983 closure, its site finally is on the brink of redevelopment. But what it took to bring the property to this point is a cautionary tale for any Western Pennsylvania community facing the challenges of returning a contaminated former industrial site to productive use.

Late New York businessman Abraham Zion's failure to fulfill revitalization promises after paying $4 million for the property in 1983 left it dormant for decades. His legal challenges to its $305,000 acquisition by the Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corp. in a 2012 tax sale further delayed reuse.

But the state Supreme Court upheld that sale, and a 2016 settlement let the county take over the site, clearing the way for a $6 million demolition and environmental remediation effort, funded by state and local money, that's expected to finish by July 1.

And that enabled the IDC to approve a $600,000 sale of the property to Elliott Group, which still must approve it but plans a new equipment-testing facility there, adding at least 130 jobs to the 875 at its U.S. headquarters in Jeannette.

Persistence at last is paying off: Elliott is strengthening its Jeannette presence and other businesses are interested in the city. That makes this tale both cautionary and hopeful: The site's remediation shouldn't have taken 30 years. That said, Jeannette, Westmoreland County and the state are proving that former industrial properties can be redeveloped successfully.

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