PurePenn successor buys three buildings, 37 hectares in RIDC Park
By Jason Togyer
The Tube City Almanac
October 05, 2021
Published in: McKeesport and Region News
Trulieve Cannabis Corp., which PurePenn, based in McKeesport, acquired in 2020, is buying three buildings and approximately 37 acres of land in the city’s industrial park, RIDC said Tuesday. (Photo from Tube City Almanac)
A medical marijuana maker has allocated $ 10.4 million to expand its operations in the city’s industrial park, with the ability to add 800 jobs.
Trulieve Cannabis Corp., which acquired McKeesport-based PurePenn in 2020, is acquiring 37 acres of land and three buildings, Regional Industrial Development Corp said. on Tuesday with.
The purchase includes McKeesport Commons I – the former EchoStar call center – and McKeesport Commons II, an empty building next door. Trulieve is also acquiring the guard shack at Locust Street level crossing, RIDC said.
Discussions for the sale of the two McKeesport Commons buildings have been ongoing “since Trulieve acquired PurePenn,” said Timothy White, RIDC senior vice president of development. “They obviously had some aggressive expansion plans and saw McKeesport as a place to expand and grow.”
McKeesport Commons I and II. (Photo from Tube City Almanac)
In an email statement, McKeesports Mayor Michael Cherepko said he was “ecstatic” about the news.
“Trulieve’s decision to expand its presence here is a true example of the vision we had when PurePenn first took to the ground,” said Cherepko. “This huge investment will mean that our community will get several hundred more jobs.”
Trulieve recently added a 90,000 square foot manufacturing facility to PurePenn’s existing laboratory and offices. Located near the intersection of Center Street and Industry Drive, this facility is adjacent to the newly acquired property.
PurePenn received a $ 2 million grant from the government’s remediation capital program to fund this expansion.
Trulieve executives did not return any messages left by the Tube City Almanac on Tuesday afternoon.
However, White said the company intends to keep its existing facilities. “This is an extension, not a replacement,” he said.
McKeesport Commons I and II were created from part of the former main pipe mill building of US Steel’s National Works. The building can be seen here shortly after it was closed in 1989. (Martin Stupich photo for Historic American Engineering Record, courtesy Library of Congress)
Trulieve, which grows cannabis plants and extracts chemicals from them for medicinal purposes, also operates medical marijuana dispensaries in six states. A publicly traded company listed on the Canadian Stock Exchange and headquartered in Tallahassee, Florida.
Trulieve shares closed Tuesday at $ 29.51 (US), up 4 percent.
Earlier this week, the company announced plans to buy Harvest Health & Recreation, Inc., a former competitor, for $ 2.1 billion. The transaction will make Trulieve the largest cannabis retailer in the United States, according to published reports.
In a statement released by RIDC, Jim Wernick, Trulieve’s director of government expansion, was quoted as saying, “We look forward to building lasting partnerships with communities and capitalizing on the strong talent pool that exists in McKeesport and the surrounding area.”
The McKeesport Industrial Park, which stretches along the Monongahela River between the McKeesport-Duquesne Bridge and the Youghiogheny River, was the site of US Steel’s National Works until 1987 when the facility closed. The McKeesport Commons buildings were created from the old main pipe mill building.
A panoramic photo shows the extent of the buildings Trulieve acquired. (Photo illustration Tube City Almanac)
With the acquisition, Trulieve will control all of the riverside land in the industrial park between Center and Locust streets.
The expansion will have no impact on plans to re-route the Great Allegheny Passage walking and cycling route, said both White and State Senator Jim Brewster.
“There are land grants that will be given to realign the bike path,” said White.
The Trulieve sale means the last major lots at National Works are finally being recycled after being vacant since 1987.
River Materials, which built an intermodal terminal under the McKeesport-Duquesne Bridge in 2020, is also expected to announce an expansion later this week.
RIDC has also started cleaning up asbestos and lead paint on the former McKeesport Connecting Railroad roundabout near the intersection of Center Street and Industry Road in hopes of finding a buyer, White said. There are still some smaller parcels and buildings for sale, he said.
McKeesport Commons I (above) was formerly occupied by EchoStar, but has been largely empty since 2009. McKeesport Commons II (below) was never officially occupied, but was used for a pop-up Covid-19 test site in 2020. (Tube City Almanac Photos)
“This feels like the end of a long, 30-year loop,” Brewster said Tuesday night. Brewster was elected to McKeesport City Council in 1995 when some of the old mill buildings were still being demolished.
“We lost 3,000 or 4,000 jobs on this site,” he said. “Trying to market the site, clean up the site, and maintain public trust has been very rough.”
McKeesport officials thought they had a big win in 1998 when satellite TV operator EchoStar – later part of Dish Network – moved into McKeesport Commons I and employed 600 people in a call center. But when a 10-year tax break ended, Dish Network closed the facility, which has since been largely empty.
On Tuesday afternoon, workers filled a large roll-off container with material from the old EchoStar offices.
This former guardhouse near the CSX level crossing on Locust Street is also part of the Trulieve sale, RIDC officials said. (Photo from Tube City Almanac)
Brewster said he was skeptical of the benefits of medical marijuana in 2016 and needed to be convinced before voting for a law to legalize its use in Pennsylvania.
No longer a skeptic, Brewster said on Tuesday he was “proud” that Trulieve is expanding into McKeesport.
“When recreational marijuana (in Pennsylvania) becomes a reality and it looks like it, they will be prepared for it,” he said. “I’m just excited about the location and the people in the neighboring communities – Clairton, Duquesne, West Mifflin, Port Vue – everyone will benefit.”
White said the Trulieve expansion would not have been possible in 2010 without the construction of a “flyover ramp” between the industrial park and Lysle Boulevard. Previously, the only access to the site was via level crossings on Locust and Center Strasse.
“It was absolutely critical,” said White. “Without the leadership of then-mayor, now Senator Brewster, and Congressman Mike Doyle, we would have been removed from the list.”
He praised the collaboration RIDC has received from Cherepko, Brewster, State Representative Austin Davis, and Allegheny County in their efforts to redesign the McKeesport site.
“It’s been a long journey with some of these steel mill locations, but we’re seeing the fruits of the collaboration between RIDC, the county and the city,” said White.
(RIDC Photo / Illustration Tube City Almanach)
Jason Togyer is the Editor of the Tube City Almanac and Honorary Executive Director of Tube City Community Media Inc. He can be reached at [email protected]
Originally published October 5, 2021.
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