Benner Commerce Park changes hands

After nearly a year, the Benner Commerce Park has been sold.

Three local investors closed on the sale last month of the Benner Township property after beginning negotiations as far back as March 2013.

The Bellefonte State College I-99 Partnership purchased the approximately 100-acre business park for $2,710,120 from the Chamber of Business & Industry of Centre County, according to Lesley Kistner, communications director at the CBICC.

The partnership comprises Heidi Nicholas, owner of Nicholas Enterprises; Bob Poole, CEO of S&A Homes; and SilcoTek head coach, Paul Silvis.

The land for the business park near the I-99 interchange and next to State Correctional Institution at Rockview was purchased by the chamber for $1 in 2004.

The original intent to sell lots or the entire park was made public in 2008. The agreement with the I-99 Partnership was entered into last March, with closing taking place Jan. 17, Kistner said.

In April, CBICC spokeswoman Betsy Dupuis said the chamber was carrying several million dollars in debt from the business park that was expunged when the land was sold. She said the lots in the park were slow to sell due to a struggling economy, and the group wanted to put the park into the hands of people more experienced with its purpose.

Kistner said the sale also allowed the chamber to fulfill an obligation to the State College YMCA, which signed a memorandum of agreement with the CBICC to purchase land in the park for eventual development of a new facility.

In August, the partnership picked up the $300,000 tab on a parcel where the YMCA is expected to be built. The chamber didn’t have the cash to close on the property.

CBICC President Vern Squier said the sale of the park is helping with the chamber’s strategic plan to transition from a land-based economic development organization to one focused on a number of initiatives designed to grow the county’s economy.

“The park, part of which is an expanded Keystone Opportunity Zone, is an asset in the county’s economic development program; CBICC will be freed to focus on our broader mission of making Centre County a great place to live, work and conduct business,” he said.

Keystone Opportunity Zone status offers tax relief for businesses willing to build in the park over a specified period of time. Last January, a piece of the property become KOEZ, which lasts10 years.

“The clock is ticking on this zone, so we hope to encourage businesses to settle here and take advantage of the incentives,” said Silvis, whose company is located in the park.

The partnership will work with local organizations like the CBICC to help bring in business.

Currently, the partnership is also working with real estate agents Scott Yocum and Marc McMaster, of Re/Max Centre Realty, on creating marketing plans to sell the lots. He said that 30-second commercials are in the works, along with making a website and Facebook page and using other forms of social media to advertise the property.

“We need to be on the forefront of the plan so we can get things done sooner rather than later,” Silvis said.

Calling the development a “multiphase project,” Silvis said the partnership is proactive in making sure the landscape of the property is maintained, as well as coming up with lot plans that are flexible with potential customers.

“We’ve gotten a few nibbles, but the talks are ongoing,” Silvis said. “It was a long time in the making with making sure our T’s were crossed and our I’s were dotted, but it’s worth it.”