As the community rallies to raise $1.4 million to buy the former Pittsburgh Cut Flower property, workers have begun to clean up the site's dilapidated asbestos-laced greenhouses along Bakerstown Road in Richland.
The property's current owner—Legacy Landings LLC of Florida—has contracted with Mid-Atlantic Environment Consultants of Gibsonia and Agresta Construction and Demolition of Philadelphia for the cleanup.
The nonprofit Allegheny Land Trust has a contract to buy the 180-acre site at 4136 Bakerstown Road. Its vision is to build a solar farm on the 10-acre brownfield portion of the land where decaying greenhouses are now located.
About 150 acres would be permanent green space.
That solar farm could generate power for a small commercial area that is envisioned for the 20 acres across the street from the greenhouses.
The land trust launched a community fundraising campaign Aug. 1 to raise $140,000 in local funds to match foundation and public grants for the $1.4 million cost of buying the land.
In its heyday, the Pittsburgh Cut Flower Co. grew roses and other flowers in those greenhouses and asbestos was used to insulate water pipes.
Over the years, the greenhouses have become dilapidated structures of broken glass and frames, with native vegetation poking out of the roofs. The disturbed asbestos creates an environmental challenge.
Stephen Agresta, of Agresta Construction and Demolition in Philadelphia, explained that the cleanup will be done in phases "under the watchful eyes of the EPA".
Agresta and Sam (he declined to give his last name) of Legacy Landings said the land will be returned to its natural state.
Fundraising with a Local Twist
Through Allegheny Land Trust's efforts, more than $300,000 has already been raised and $700,000 has been pledged pending matching funds being raised toward the goal of $1.4 million to buy the property, according to its website.
By the beginning of November, said Roy Kraynyk, Allegheny Land Trust’s land protection director.
Already, the land trust has received grants from the Colcom Foundation, Laurel Foundation, The Pittsburgh Foundation, and the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds.
Grant proposals totaling $1.3 million are pending, according to Allegheny Land Trust's website.
In the local community's fundraising efforts, Erie Insurance Group led the way by presenting a $2,500 check at the Aug. 1 unveiling of a fundraising status sign on the property.
- A $2,500 challenge grant from Tall Timbers Tree Experts of Gibsonia has been met.
- Jewart’s Gymnastics on Wildwood Road donated $2,500.
Plans are being made for a special dinner in the spring, perhaps outdoors, as a fundraiser.
Also, the community is invited to a Feb. 9 event at Northern Tier Library that focuses on the history of the former Pittsburgh Cut Flower property.
Historical photos will be displayed and speakers will talk about what life was like when the site on Bakerstown Road was a thriving business.