Former Mahoning racetrack site eyed for industrial park

This aerial view of the land formerly eyed for a casino and horserace track in Mahoning Township is now targeted for development of an industrial and business park. Shown is Route 422 running diagonally from the top to the right and Route 551 running from north to south. 

A site formerly eyed for a casino and horserace track in Mahoning Township is now targeted for development of an industrial and business park.

The Regional Industrial Development Corp (RIDC) Southwestern Pennsylvania Growth Fund, through RIDC of Southwestern Pennsylvania, has been approved for a 15-year $2.25 million loan at 2.5 percent interest rate, to acquire and develop the 247 acres of land at Baird Road and Route 422. The land is currently owned by AHT Land, LP with a listed address in Youngstown.

The RIDC plans to build an industrial/ business park there. The $3 million project will also involve infrastructure development including new roads, utilities, stormwater management, earthmoving, grading and erosion and sedimentation controls.

The loan is one of four that the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority approved for growing businesses in Lawrence, Berks, Luzerne and Westmoreland counties, according to a news release by Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday.

RIDC has a prospering business park in Neshannock Township that has been developed throughout the past 20 years. Commissioner Dan Vogler, who formerly was a township supervisor when RIDC acquired that site, has been a member of the RIDC board of directors since he became a commissioner in 2004.

The Mahoning Township property for several years was owned by Carmen Schick, who sold his interest to developers of the racetrack and casino, but the plans switched investors’ hands multiple times and never materialized.

“We’re pretty excited,” Tim White, RIDC’s senior vice president of development, said Wednesday about the plan. “It’s still in the early stages. We’ve had a great partnership with Lawrence County in Neshannock Township, and we’re looking for ways to expand that partnership.”

He said the park will house light industrial, business and warehousing, and it has ideal access to highways and is on close proximity proximate to New Castle and Youngstown.

“A PIDA loan has been a great tool for industrial development,” White said. “It’s the first piece to help pull together the financing for the infrastructure.”

He noted the property is near water and sewer lines, but RIDC will have to extend the water line and establish gas and electrical service and put in core roads. The corporation will be working on the design of the utilities, a financing package and the permitting process in 2022, he said.

“We really started looking at (the property) this year, and it was on the market,” White said. “In our partnership with Lawrence County, they identified it as a site of economic growth potential. We’re doing our due diligence to pull all the pieces together to move this forward.”

County Commissioner Chairman Morgan Boyd said he made the first call to White to gauge his interest.

“Our team then got together, sent them information and continues to meet, and this is the first step in what I hope will be a very successful project in northern Lawrence County.”

The county’s team includes the commissioners, the Mahoning Township supervisors, RIDC, and Lawrence County Economic Development Corporation/Regional Chamber of Commerce.

“This was a team effort,” he said.

Vogler credited Linda Nitch and Alex McCoy, leaders of those two agencies, for their due diligence in working with RIDC to get the plans in place.

“I’m excited about it,” said Vogler, who was a strong proponent of developing the site as a racetrack and casino on that property.

The RIDC owns 11 industrial parks, and the Neshannock one so far is the only one in Lawrence County. Most of its other ventures are in Allegheny County, with sites also in Armstrong, Westmoreland and on the border of Butler and Allegheny counties.

Vogler is one of the few members of RIDC’s 28-member board of directors who doesn’t live in Allegheny County. He attends its board meetings, and within the past year the members have been discussing the Mahoning property’s potential and indicating it is a site they are potentially trying to secure, and the board gave its support to that effort, he said.

“One thing they like is that it’s relatively flat, and in western Pennsylvania it’s challenging to find large parcels of flat property,” Vogler pointed out. “They also like that it’s close to interstates 376 and 80 and the turnpike.”

Vogler prided the RIDC for its development in Neshannock Township.

“It’s nice and very diverse and I think that investment has paid off,” he said. “It’s almost full. If they can replicate in Mahoning what they’ve done in Neshannock Township, that would be tremendous.”

The RIDC board at its December meeting will talk about the next steps, he added.

Mahoning Township Supervisor Vito Yeropoli said he, too, is elated about the news.

“It’s been a process we’ve been working on with the commissioners and we’re happy it’s coming,” Yeropoli said.

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Debbie's been a journalist at the New Castle News since 1978, and covers county government, police and fire, New Castle schools, environment and various other realms. She also writes features, takes photos and video and copy edits.

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