PERTH – With three confirmed or potential projects in the works, new life comes to the long-dormant Tryon Technology Park.
Since the state closed the juvenile detention center there a decade ago, some infrastructure improvements have been completed, but little noticeable progress has been made towards bringing jobs and economic activity back to the 515 hectare site.
Since the closure, the only employer that has set up a business for the cultivation and processing of medical marijuana is there.
James Mraz, executive director of the Fulton County Industrial Development Agency, said Friday that recent developments promise a partial turnaround:
- Most importantly, marijuana company Vireo Health has acquired an additional 90 acres and plans to begin construction on 325,000 square feet of new space next month so it can be ready for the recreational marijuana market to open in New York. To begin with, eight decaying buildings will be demolished.
- The 27 acres south of 107 County Road with several small buildings have been sold for possible use as a probiotic manufacturing facility.
- Lott Holdings of Amsterdam has a contract to purchase the 15,000-square-foot building that was used for maintenance during prison time; It is planned to renovate and reuse the structure.
Mraz said these were important steps forward.
Only last week Vireo presented his plans to the IDA, he said. They are asking for an investment of $ 50 to $ 55 million and up to 180 jobs to be created.
This is a significant step forward in replacing the more than 300 government employees who were once paid an annual salary of more than $ 15 million at what was known as the Tryon Boys and Girls Center, a detention center for teenagers convicted of serious crimes.
The state bequeathed the property to Fulton County in recognition of the economic impact the closure had on the area.
The state has requested reuse for some of the other detention facilities it has closed, with limited results too. For example, the old Mount McGregor Correctional Facility in neighboring Saratoga County has proven difficult to sell.
The Tryon acreage will be included in property tax for the first time in half a century as it will go back into private hands.
“That was the main goal of the county and the IDA,” said Mraz: jobs and tax revenue.
IDA has been pursuing this goal since taking over the site at the beginning of 2014.
It’s been a long seven years. Progress has been made in preparing the site for reuse – several plots ready to be shoveled are available for sale – but there has been limited success in attracting new residents.
“We knew this wasn’t going to be filled quickly,” said Mraz.
Techpark has two things to offer: a quiet, rural setting and an infrastructure – water, sewage, gas and electricity – that is seldom found in such a pastoral setting. But the rural setting is also a major downside: it’s quite a distance from the thruway and has limited public visibility.
There is also strong competition from other development agencies.
“I’ve been doing this for 40 years,” said Mraz. “With every project you get, you realize how lucky you are because these companies could go anywhere.”
In addition, there are limits to what can be built there. The city of Perth has drawn up a very specific list of permitted uses within the Business and Technology Zone, which ranges from high-tech and R&D to offices and residential to sports facilities and conference centers.
Anything not on the list could not be placed there without departing from the city.
The largest building on site has proven to be a white elephant: the main building, at 60,000 feet, contains a gym, pool, auditorium, offices, and classrooms. A 15,000 square meter vocational training center is attached.
Despite some break-ins and interior vandalism in late 2020, they are in good condition, a far cry from the smaller buildings that Vireo will be demolishing.
“Structurally, the buildings are in fabulous condition,” said Mraz, “although they have not been heated or serviced since 2013.”
The IDA has the same problem trying to sell the main building as it has to market the shovel-ready empty spaces nearby – their location. But the difficulty is made worse by the layout and components of the interior.
“We had limited interest in it,” said Mraz.
“We’re just stuck further away. As with any property, it just takes the right party with the right use. “