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The real McCoy

Published April 10. 2010 09:00AM

There are fly by night pipe dreams, and then there are golden opportunities that are too good to pass up.

The redevelopment of a one-time industrial zinc-smelting giant into a sustainable high tech office park in Palmerton certainly appears to be the real McCoy.

On the surface, the conversion of the former New Jersey Zinc Co. into a state-of-the-art business park would seem to be a win-win scenario for all parties involved.

George Petrole, chief operating officer for Northface Development, LLC, Lehighton, has stated the park could create thousands of jobs on the over 100-acre site.

That's certainly welcome news for an area sorely in need of more industry, as the site at 1120 Mauch Chunk Road has been in abandonment since Aug. 19, 2002.

Though there has been interest in the site over the years, borough Manager Rodger Danielson said it was more a case of people who "wished they could do something there, more so than people who were ready to do something there."

"What hampered anyone from moving forward was the environmental status and what it would meet to do a cleanup," Danielson said. "We have had many, many people wanting to initiate development there, but usually were dissuaded by the understanding of the environmental issues."

The park is expected to accommodate up to 24 separate building lots that will contain office and technology space of about 235,000 square feet, warehouse space of 213,000 square feet, and paved parking areas totaling 1,745,000 square feet.

Petrole has said there are 24 large buildings in various stages of decay that should be demolished by May. However, he said all the materials on the site will be recycled.

Make no mistake about it; the plan surely won't begin to take shape overnight. In the words of Petrole, the project is, in effect, the start of a very long journey.

Upon the receipt of an Act 2 clearance, he said the site should be totally developable within the next three to six years.

In the meantime, Petrole said the company is on the lookout for an anchor business. High tech facilities, administrative, or medical research buildings are several options being considered.

Another option, he said, is for the company to break up the property into individual parcels. Or, it could develop its own shell buildings, he said.

Regardless of which avenue the company pursues, it's clear it has grand visions for the site, as Petrole himself has said it won't be satisfied with just another business park.

As part of a presentation last month to members of the Palmerton Area Chamber of Commerce, concerns about traffic and environmental controls were raised.

While the primary travel access will be Mauch Chunk Road initially, Petrole said the company will look at engineering for other potential access options in the future.

As far as environmental controls are concerned, Petrole said both the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Environmental Protection Agency will be at the site to oversee the work.

While the business park in it of itself would be a remarkable addition to the area, so, too, would a new location for the borough's fire station.

As part of the acquisition, Petrole said a 3-acre parcel of the site may eventually be dedicated to the borough for use as a fire station.

Danielson said the business park should be a real plus to the area.

"The borough council are one-hundred-percent supportive of the business park development," he said. "It will lead to good family income jobs, and it's a clean industry."

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