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Location DB > United States > Pennsylvania > Philadelphia > State Prison Farm
State Prison Farm
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created by Mike Dijital on 9/27/2015 2:12 AM
last modified by Mike Dijital on 9/27/2015 2:14 AM
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Type: Building
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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
United States
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Closed: 0
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 Media Coverage
Developing situation

By William Kenny
Times Staff Writer

Frank Rizzo was in his last months as mayor. Larry Bowa was a spry shortstop. Mumia Abu Jamal was a part-time journalist.
The year was 1979 and the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation was about to change the face of the Far Northeast.
That year, PIDC acquired more than 400 acres of land formerly occupied by the Philadelphia State Hospital at Byberry and a city-
run prison farm. Located east of Roosevelt Boulevard and north of Woodhaven Road, the vast property was to become
the new Byberry East Industrial Park.

But it wouldn’t happen overnight.This summer, in fact, PIDC approved the sale of one of the last remaining parcels in the
industrial park to beer wholesaler Antonio Origlio Inc.The 10-acre transaction — which is pending settlement — leaves just eight
available parcels in the industrial park totaling about 50 acres. Along with the fully developed, 110-acre Byberry West Industrial
Park, created in 1981 on the west side of the Boulevard, PIDC-developed land in the area now has an occupancy rate of more
than 90 percent.

PIDC is a not-for-profit corporation created in 1958 by the city and the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce to promote
economic development within the city. Since 1974, one of its primary activities has been buying land and managing its
redevelopment for business and commercial use.The process is supposed to help the city retain and attract companies, create jobs
and generate tax dollars for the city.“Over the years, we’ve acquired about two-thousand acres, and we have left about three
hundred-forty,” said Peter Longstreth, the PIDC president.That total excludes more than 1,000 acres acquired by PIDC at the
former Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in South Philadelphia three years ago. An expansive redevelopment project there remains in the
early stages.

At Byberry, however, there are more than 50 companies, labor unions, government facilities and non-profit corporations
occupying the two industrial parks. They employ about 5,000 people. There is even a school there —– the Northeast campus of
Community College of Philadelphia.The individual parcels range in area from a few acres to more than 40. Common uses include
office space, warehouse and distribution, along with light manufacturing.PIDC executives say success of the projects depended
as much on outside economic factors as their ability to market the land to prospective buyers. The earliest sales occurred in 1981
and 1982.At the outset, there were two primary roads serving Byberry East, Southampton Road and Townsend Road. PIDC
needed to improve both transportation and utility infrastructures for the area. The first parcels sold tended to be smaller and
located along Southampton Road and a portion of Townsend Road to the south.

At the time, PIDC’s emphasis was establishing the area in the corporate real estate market, even if it meant losing some money on
the deals.“You start out at the low end of the market, attracting warehouses and distributors,” Longstreth said.
Those uses are less than ideal because they generally create fewer jobs and revenue than manufacturing operations. Getting those
manufacturing businesses is the next step.“Once the area is established, the market picks up,” Longstreth said. “Ultimately, what
will happen, is office sites are the next step.”Progress was modest until later in the decade, according to Paul Deegan, a senior
vice president for PIDC.“There were two real spikes of activity,” Deegan said. “The first was in the late eighties, from around
1986 on.”At the time, the health of the national economy was reflected in an influx of new companies into the Byberry parks.
Although there were minimal high-profile parcels with frontage on Roosevelt Boulevard, Byberry managed to meet companies’
other needs, notably transportation.

The site is minutes from both Interstate 95 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
During this surge of activity, PIDC built new streets, including McNulty Road, Black Lake Place and Commerce Way, giving
builders access to available parcels.In 1988, Swedish furniture manufacturer IKEA bought a 40-acre parcel on Townsend Road
and built a 410,000-square-foot warehouse. Though the project brought only about 100 jobs to the area, it was a landmark
because of its sheer size and the new business it meant for the city’s seaport.“Our standards have always been fifteen jobs per
acre and ten thousand square feet of construction per acre,” Deegan said. “And we’ve always held to that unless there are
exceptional circumstances.”IKEA didn’t last, but Liss Brothers moved its distribution operations into the facility. Now, the
location is occupied by Jerrith, which manufactures fence products.The same boom period also brought a development of more
than 30 acres to Byberry West. Conrail built its operations center there in 1989 and 1990. From a single location, the railroad
company controlled its entire freight network. Conrail later went bankrupt and was broken up by CSX and Norfolk Southern, but
the Vanguard financial firm will soon commence operations at the site, Deegan said.

Though sales stagnated at Byberry during the recession of the early 1990s, the latter part of the decade brought another boom
period, thanks to a general economic recovery and the inclusion of the parks in the state’s Keystone Opportunity Zone tax
incentive program.The KOZ legislation passed in 1998.The next few years saw the purchase of 25 acres by Origlio on the
northernmost portion of Townsend Road. The company’s pending 10-acre purchase is adjacent to the original parcel.
With virtually all redevelopment opportunities expired in Byberry East and West, PIDC officials have turned their attention to the
remaining portion of the former psychiatric hospital, which closed in 1990.A current proposal for the 130-acre tract on the
northwest corner of the Boulevard and Southampton Road includes 50 acres of corporate office space to go along with 55 acres
of homes and 25 acres of open space.PIDC obtained the development rights to the ground through state legislation last spring. It
will manage the process throughout, including the search for commercial and residential developers this fall. ••
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This location's validation is current. It was last validated by Mike Dijital on 9/27/2015 2:15 AM.

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  • on Sep 27 15 at 2:15, Mike Dijital validated this location
  • on Sep 27 15 at 2:14, Mike Dijital added some pictures to a gallery
  • on Sep 27 15 at 2:14, Mike Dijital created a new gallery
  • on Sep 27 15 at 2:14, Mike Dijital made this location available
  • on Sep 27 15 at 2:14, Mike Dijital changed the following: Notes for Mods, Type, City, Province / State (please use full name), Country, Publically Viewable, History, Interesting Features, Media Coverage, Future Plans, Description, Web Links
  • on Sep 27 15 at 2:13, Mike Dijital updated the main picture
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