Allegheny Land Trust launched a community fundraising drive Wednesday to raise $1.4 million to buy the deteriorating property once owned by Pittsburgh Cut Flower in Richland Township.
The Dream: Saving the 180-acre site from two decades of deterioration and transforming it into green space and a solar farm.
The Goal: Raising $1.4 million to buy the property on Bakerstown Road.
The Plan: Soliciting the Richland community to raise one-tenth of that amount—$140,000— to match foundation and public grants.
First in line to donate to the local cause was Erie Insurance Group.
Owner John Pasquinelli of Pasquinelli Insurance Agency and Vice President Leah Micholas were on hand to present a check for $2,500 at the unveiling of a fundraising status sign on the property Wednesday morning.
Pasquinelli is a member of the Richland Township Parks and Recreation Board.
Although Allegheny Land Trust is spearheading the drive, Land Protection Director Roy Kraynyk said the project is not about the trust.
"It's about community coming together," he said. The trust's role is to "help local people save local land."
More than $300,000 has already been raised and $700,000 has been pledged pending matching funds being raised, according to Kraynyk.
Fundraising is off to a good start with grants from the Colcom Foundation, Laurel Foundation, The Pittsburgh Foundation, and the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds, he said.
Pittsburgh Cut Flower purchased the Richland property in 1901 and operated there until 1990. It has been in business for more than a century and still has a location in Pittsburgh's Strip District.
The land now is owned by Florida-based Legacy Landings LLC.
The greenhouses that once supplied flowers to retailers across the country have evolved into dilapidated structures of broken glass and frames, with native trees poking out of the roofs.
Disturbed asbestos used to insulate water pipes also creates an environmental challenge. Fencing keeps out potential vandals.
The Allegheny Land Trust's vision is to clean up the 10-acre brownfield portion of the land by tearing down the greenhouses and replacing them with a solar farm that could generate power for a small commercial area, which might be located on 20 acres across the street, Kraynyk said.
About 150 acres would be permanent green space.
“This can have a profound impact on the community,” Richland Township Manager Dean Bastianini said.
Allegheny Land Trust’s vision is the right one; it fits into the township’s comprehensive plan for parks, recreation and open space, Bastianini said.
That plan calls for creating a park in the western portion of the township.
Bastianini noted there is a lot of work to do, and Allegheny Land Trust is doing the heavy lifting on the project.
The Richland Board of Supervisors recently passed a resolution declaring the land a blighted area, which opened the door for the nonprofit Allegheny Land Trust to apply for federal funds to improve the 180-acre property.
Supervisor John Marshall, who was at Wednesday's sign unveiling, spoke about the days when the Richland facility was known as being one of the best in the flower business.
Allegheny Land Trust plans to use the 150-acre green space for passive recreation—trails, fishing, photography—much like Hartwood Acres and Beechwood Farms, said Bastianini.
“We’re very excited for the first time in years; the Board of Supervisors is very excited,” Bastianini said.
Kraynyk said that in his 17 years with the land trust, the response from the Richland community exceeds that of any other community, “bar none.”
Annette Robinson, who worked on the comprehensive plan, said the planners often wondered if those plans would become reality.
“It is super exciting … to realize something is going to come of it," she said. "It’s actually happening."
For information or to donate, call Allegheny Land Trust at 412-741-2750 or visit its website, www.alleghenylandtrust.org