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SHARON Winner drops plan to develop old plant



Published: Thu, February 28, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Winner said he will continue with the environmental cleanup at the plant and lease space to manufacturers.

By HAROLD GWIN

VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU

SHARON, Pa. -- Businessman James E. Winner Jr. has scrapped plans for the $77 million redevelopment of the former Westinghouse Electric Corp. plant on Sharpsville Avenue into an industrial and office complex.

Winner told The Vindicator on Wednesday that the project, the largest under development in Mercer County at this time, is dead.

That includes a planned expansion of Winner Steel Services Inc. at the southern end of the site, he said.

That work would have accounted for about $60 million of the project cost.

Winner unveiled his plans in late 1999 when he bought the bulk of the old electric transformer plant for $500,000.

Here was plan: He envisioned creating a complex of about 800,000 square feet of industrial space and more than 150,000 square feet of office space, providing more than 1,000 jobs.

The project hinged on a $7 million grant from the state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, but Winner, doing business as Winner Development LLC, never got that money.

The state approved the grant but wouldn't release the funds until terms of a grant agreement were met.

The state said it needed Winner Development to provide information on a list of 21 special conditions to satisfy that agreement, conditions that dealt with documentation of private financing, project costs, project organization and management plans.

The Mercer County Industrial Development Authority, which acted as liaison between Winner and the state on the grant issue, said the state had set March 7 as the deadline for securing that information but that Winner wasn't providing it.

Frustration: Winner had little to say about his reasons for dropping the project, but he had told the newspaper in January that he was frustrated in his dealings with MCIDA.

The agency kept coming up with requests for more information, he said.

The MCIDA said it was the state that was insistent that Winner meet all of the grant agreement requirements.

Winner said he will continue with the environmental cleanup of the plant that was started more than a year ago. He will ask the state for a $3 million grant to complete that task.

He said he's already spent more than that amount on the cleanup effort.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found various contaminants in and around the industrial portion of the plant and placed it on the Superfund cleanup list in 1990, five years after Westinghouse ceased operations there.

Winner said he will retain plant ownership and still try to lease space to manufacturers.

gwin@vindy.com




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