The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

September 7, 2012

Great Stream Commons plan derailed

Train bridge plan delayed

By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item

ALLENWOOD — Revamped rail lines leading to Union County’s Great Stream Commons business park are nearing completion, but rebuilding a decommissioned train bridge has been delayed, the funds diverted to a Lycoming County rail bridge that was damaged severely in last fall’s floods.

Meanwhile, about six potential tenants are looking at space in the 670-acre park in Gregg Township and are studying options with the county. Hickey Associates, a highly regarded site consultant, now represents Great Streams Commons.

Tie replacement and rail restoration should be done by the end of October, said Donald Alexander, president of the Union County Industrial Development Corp., which is responsible for attracting tenants to the park near Allenwood.

The rail restoration is being funded with about $2.8 million from a $10 million federal grant the SEDA-Council of Government received.

Reconstruction of the White Deer Creek rail bridge near the park also was to be under way. However, funding priority went to repairing a trestle on an active line that crosses Loyalsock Creek in Montoursville. The trestle was heavily damaged in last September’s floods.

Funds for the White Deer Creek bridge project should be available in the spring, Alexander said.

Refurbishing the bridge and extending the rail line about six miles north into Great Stream Commons brings a fresh selling point, making the property more attractive to potential tenants by giving them another transportation option, especially into the state’s Northern Tier, Alexander said.

Regarding the six possible new tenants at Great Stream Commons, Alexander said negotiations “are in the early stage with another mega distributor” that potentially could occupy nearly 2 million square feet of space there. The Target store chain had planned to locate a major distribution center in the park, but has postponed work on that project for years.

Among the other five businesses, one is related to the Marcellus Shale industry and looking at about 20 acres of space; two are lodging operations seeking about 10 acres each; one is a hospitality business; and one is involved with trucking, Alexander said.

Alexander would not reveal the company identities, citing a policy not to reveal or announce projects. Instead, the companies announce their plans after the deals are settled.

The Union County commissioners said earlier this year they might have to raise taxes to help cover the cost of bond payments for improvements at Great Stream Commons. Park tenants would have covered the bond payments, but because there has been virtually no recent activity at the park, it’s feared taxpayers may get the bill.

About 12 years ago, Union County borrowed $12 million to buy the land after an effort by USPCI to put a hazardous-waste incinerator there was abandoned. Refinancing bonds, especially in a market of much lower interest rates, has kept using tax money off the table to pay for the loan.