EAST LACKAWANNOCK TOWNSHIP — Hopes for a a million-square-foot warehouse development near the Interstate 80-U.S. Route 19 interchange suffered a blow when a realty developer’s option to buy the property expired.
Mercer County Commissioner Matt McConnell announced the expiration Thursday during a meet-and-greet at East End Fire Department in Mercer with all three commissioners present. An attempt to contact McConnell Thursday afternoon was unsuccessful.
Clayco Inc., based in Chicago, had been working to develop the property for an $80 million warehouse project that was expected to employ up to 1,000 people. Randy Seitz, CEO of Penn-Northwest Development Corp., said in September that the company was seeking major retailers — including Amazon, Target and Bed, Bath & Beyond — to operate in the warehouse.
A Clayco representative discussed the company’s plans last year during the annual meeting for Penn-Northwest, Mercer County’s economic development agency. Seitz said the company is still interested in developing the property, even with the expiration.
Seitz characterized the company as a major development with a national reach. He said the expiration was not entirely unexpected.
“I believe that they’re moving forward with acquisition and construction. It’s just a matter of lining up that first tenant,” he said. “When we were working on a program of this size, over a million square feet, it takes some time.”
Mercer County Commissioner Tim McGonigle agreed with Seitz that the prospects for development at the East Lackawannock Township site are still alive, and that the expiration wasn’t wholly unexpected.
But McGonigle said some people with knowledge of the process and development efforts falsely implied that the Clayco development was a done deal.
“People were promising jobs and development. That was way premature,” he said. “Until we had a sales agreement and the land transfer is in the courthouse, it shouldn’t have been announced.”
McGonigle, the sole Democrat on the county commissioners board, didn’t name anyone who he thought was guilty of overselling the development.
“The people who made this announcement know who they are,” he said.
But he said that people on the county’s end worked hard to bring the development to fruition, including officials from all three taxing entities — East Lackawannock Township, Mercer Area School District and Mercer County — who offered to discuss tax abatements for businesses relocating to the warehouse project.
In spite of the setback, McGonigle and Commissioner Scott Boyd said they are still hopeful that a major warehouse will be built at the county-owned site, which was previously a gravel pit.
“It’s still a great piece of property in a great location,” McGonigle said. “All is not lost.”
Follow Eric Poole on Facebook and Twitter @HeraldEricPoole. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org