Archive

Plans move forward for veterans center at former SCI Greensburg; site backs millions in financial transactions | TribLIVE.com
Westmoreland

Plans move forward for veterans center at former SCI Greensburg; site backs millions in financial transactions

Deb Erdley

A single shovel of dirt has yet to move at the long-shuttered SCI Greensburg to transform it into a full-service veterans campus, but the property is now reportedly worth 40 times what was paid for it and 240 times its tax value, according to public financial filings.

Work is to start soon on the Greensburg Veterans Sunrise Center, project director Robert Wright said.

“We’re going to transform it from a place of incarceration to one of liberation where veterans will be able to get back on their feet and return to society,” he said.

The project is the vision of David Goldsmith, the Carlisle businessman who in 2015 paid the state $950,000 for the 300,000-square-foot former medium-security state prison in Hempfield that closed in 2013 and its surrounding 96 acres. He titled it to Verdant Holdings LLC, one of his companies.

More than $100 million of private money will be spent to convert the property into a comprehensive veterans transition center, including housing, health care and job-training facilities, developers have said.

No details have emerged for financing the project.

More than three years since the property sold, “no trespassing” signs still dot the long lane that leads from Route 119 to the former prison. A guard mans the gate house 24 hours a day.

Bars cover the windows of empty cell blocks. A double 10-foot-tall chain link fence topped with razor wire surrounds the facility that once housed 960 prisoners.

Early plans call for leveling all but 10 of 33 existing buildings, which for now are heated to 55 degrees, Wright said.

The fences will come down this spring, he said. Construction should be under­way by fall.

First will be converting part of the former prison into transitional housing for 200 to 300 veterans, he said.

Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, a Florida-based nonprofit that breeds, trains and donates service dogs to veterans, is negotiating to acquire 8 acres on the site to build a kennel, said Tony Accomando, the organization’s Pennsylvania representative.

Wright said plans also call for a hydroponic greenhouse to be built on-site that Goldsmith’s Energy Management Concepts would use to grow and sell duckweed — a high-protein aquatic plant.

Members of the Hempfield Zoning Hearing Board last month granted a special exception to the township’s zoning ordinance for the project. Steve Jecker, a Verdant Holdings principal, said their approval was necessary to secure a medical partner for the proposed facility.

“We’ve had interest from the Cleveland Clinic and the Mayo Clinic. We can’t do it without a major partner,” Jecker told Hempfield officials.

The former prison site could be a commercial asset for the community, given its size and access to several major transportation hubs, Hempfield Supervisor Rob Ritson said.

Local officials are watching closely for new developments while Verdant Holdings puts final touches on a formal site plan, expected to be filed soon.

“This sounds very good,” Ritson said. “But the devil is in the details, and we haven’t seen the details yet.”

Property mortgaged

Documents filed with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission show Verdant Holdings listed the prison property — which the county assessed at $164,000 for tax purposes — as being worth $40 million in order to secure $16 million in financing for a Minnesota business.

A $5 million loan from a small Minnesota community bank went to OrangeHook Inc., a public corporation chartered in Florida that does business in Wayzata, Minn. OrangeHook then made a $2.5 million loan to Goldsmith’s Energy Management Concepts.

Both loans are due to be repaid by May 16.

Part of the complex deal that under­wrote the bank loan also used the former prison property to secure an $11 million promissory note issued to OrangeHook by the Carlton Group, a Virginia LLC, according to the Feb. 28 SEC filing.

Goldsmith did not return multiple calls from the Tribune-Review seeking comment.

Jecker said he knew nothing about the OrangeHook transactions.

Nate Hunter of Midwest Bank in tiny Detroit Lakes, Minn., declined to discuss the transaction or the $40 million valuation of the former prison property used to back the OrangeHook loan.

“That’s all covered by confidentiality,” Hunter said.

James Mandel, OrangeHook president and CEO, said his company is not a partner in Verdant Holdings or Energy Management Concepts.

“They (Verdant Holdings) are a guarantor. They put up real property,” he said.

Mandel declined to detail his company’s relationship with Goldsmith.

“I’m not at liberty to discuss it,” he said.

Debra Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-320-7996, [email protected] or via Twitter @deberdley_trib.


GTRvetcenter002032318
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Using an aerial photograph for reference, Bob Wright of StanTec, project manager for Verdant Holdings, talks about the plans to create the Greensburg Veterans Sunrise Center, through development of the former SCI Greensburg, in Hempfield Township, on Thursday, March 22, 2018.
GTRvetcenter001032318
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Bob Wright of StanTec, project manager for Verdant Holdings, talks about the plans to create the Greensburg Veterans Sunrise Center, through development of the former SCI Greensburg, in Hempfield Township, on Thursday, March 22, 2018.
GTRvetcenter007032318
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Plans to create the Greensburg Veterans Sunrise Center, through development of the former SCI Greensburg, in Hempfield Township, begin with the removal of the fencing and window bars, as seen on Thursday, March 22, 2018.
GTRvetcenter003032318
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Plans to create the Greensburg Veterans Sunrise Center, through development of the former SCI Greensburg, in Hempfield Township, begin with the removal of the fencing and window bars, as seen on Thursday, March 22, 2018.
GTRvetcenter004032318
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Plans to create the Greensburg Veterans Sunrise Center, through development of the former SCI Greensburg, in Hempfield Township, begin with the removal of the fencing and window bars, as seen on Thursday, March 22, 2018.
GTRvetcenter005032318
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Bob Wright of StanTec, project manager for Verdant Holdings, talks about the plans to create the Greensburg Veterans Sunrise Center, through development of the former SCI Greensburg, in Hempfield Township, on Thursday, March 22, 2018.
GTRvetcenter006032318
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Bob Wright of StanTec, project manager for Verdant Holdings, talks about the plans to create the Greensburg Veterans Sunrise Center, through development of the former SCI Greensburg, in Hempfield Township, on Thursday, March 22, 2018. The area behind him will eventually house technical training facilities.
gtrprison102316
veteranssunrisecenter.com
A conceptual rendering of Greensburg Veterans Sunrise Center.
gtrvetcenter081717
Plans are in the works to build the Greensburg Veterans Sunrise Center at the site of the former SCI Greensburg in Hempfield.
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.