CLARION TWP. - An effort is underway to find a new use for the former All American Plaza previously known as the Keystone 76 truck stop at Interstate 80 Exit 70 in Clarion Township.

The Clarion County Economic Development Corp. and Miles Bros. LLC., of Clarion have teamed up to begin the needed studies and research to at prepare the 64-acre site for new life.

But is not likely to be easy or cheap.

And, the actual ownership of the property is unsettled.

The land and buildings are owned by Keystone Capital Group, an investment company based in Connecticut and Florida with numerous affiliates and sub-divisions.

Keystone Capital Group did not respond to requests for comment on this report.

The truck stop land is scheduled to go up for judicial tax sale April 13. Property sold at a judicial is sold free or any liens, meaning the buyer is not responsible for any debts connected to the land.

However, any potential buyer will inherit an extensive list of expensive problems with the site itself.

One of the most outstanding problems could be with the numerous underground fuel storage tanks still on the property.

Another problem is the deteriorating truck stop building itself the roof of the building reportedly has in spots collapsed and the interior throughout the building, which also housed a popular restaurant, has suffered water and weather damage.

The location contains a 16,650-square feet, two-story multi-purpose rest area, amenities (showers) and a 5,925-square-feet garage facility.

A document filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission says that in 2007 Able Oil Company combined with All American Travel Plazas to form All American Properties.

The plaza closed March 21m 2008 since it was experiencing "substantial, continuing losses."

The truck stop originally opened in 1982 as a Unocal 76 Auto Truck Stop Network member. Then in 1994 the Triple J Fuel Stop was formed.

Several years later, the Johnston family purchased the company and operated it as an independent facility under the Keystone Shortway Travel Center banner until April 2004.

At that time the business was purchased by All American Plazas Incorporated.

Surveying damage and potential

To determine the liabilities and potential of the site, the Clarion County Economic Development Corp., on behalf of Mile Bros. LLC., applied for and was recently awarded a $37,344 Industrial Sites Reuse Program grant from the Department of Community and Economic Development for a two-phase environmental study on the property.

The Clarion County Economic Development Corp. will not be an active developer of the site.

"The CCEDC has no plans to purchase the property," said Shannon Barrios, CCEDC executive director in an email correspondence with the CLARION NEWS. "The CCEDC has no agreement with Miles Brothers in regards to a current or future purchase of the property."

Mill Bros. LLC. was non-committal to its involvement past the evaluation of the site.

"Miles Bros LLC. has initiated another step in the multi-phase evaluation process of the old truck stop along U.S. Route 322, exit 70 of Interstate 80," Miles Bros. acknowledged in a statement to the CLARION NEWS. "The former truck stop carries many unknown environmental risks. Conducting an environmental study is a critical component to prospecting and revitalizing former industrial sites."

Mile Bros. said lands such as the former truck stop, need to be evaluated and acted on correctly.

"What's most important is that the site needs to be safe and free of hazards for the next generation of occupant," said Miles Bros. "Unfortunately, evaluating and remediating these risk comes at a high cost. With highly polluted property, remediation cost often exceed the end value of the revitalized work."

Miles Bros. speculates this is more than likely why the property has not already been repurposed.

"Without a strategic redevelopment plan in place, a site such as this will remain in a perpetual state of blight and decay," noted Miles Bros.

Repurposing brownfields such as this and the former O-I Glass plant have become a passion of Miles Brothers, LLC.

"It is about working with local, regional and state governments to produce the best outcome," said Mile Bros. "We are strong believers that the local economy is always best served with a successful public-private partnership."

Miles Brothers will match the state grant with $12,448 or more to have the work completed.

"We will use this evaluation to determine unforeseen risks, and establish a comprehensive cost outline to remediate the site," said Miles Bros. "As developers, and on behalf of the community, we owe a great deal of gratitude to Gov. Tom Wolf and his administration, the Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell, Secretary Dennis Davin from the Department of Community and Economic Development, and last but never least, state Rep. Donna Oberlander for her continued efforts to revitalize our community.

"As stewards of the community, it is reassuring that our political leaders share the same goals and enthusiasm for the area as we do."

About those fuel remaining tanks

The state Department of Environmental Protection is aware of the former truck stop.

"The former Keystone 76 facility is a closed truck stop and service area with seven registered underground storage tanks which have been temporarily out of service since 2008," said Tom Decker, DEP community relations director. "The tanks are still in in place and will need to be permanently closed or put back into service in accordance with the storage tank regulations."

Decker said DEP's involvement began long before the truck stop closed.

"Investigation and cleanup activities began in 1991and were completed in2002, when DEP approved a Remedial Action Completion Report," said decker. "If the tanks are ever removed, soil and groundwater will be assessed to determine if a release from the tanks has occurred."

Decker said the DEP Dec. 27, 2019, approved a "scope of work" submitted by Environmental Remediation & Recovery, Inc. on behalf of Clarion County Economic Development Corporation, to conduct a Phase I Environmental Assessment and Limited Phase II subsurface investigation to evaluate groundwater and soil.

Optimism

"The CCEDC is excited about receiving the ISRP grant funding," said Barrios. "We are hopeful the information obtained through this study will lead to economic growth and revitalization."

In a news release announcing the grant. Gov. Tom Wolf said, "My administration is committed to returning brownfields to public use, and this is the first step in that process."

"Assessments help determine how a formerly unused site can be transformed and how it can be used to boost the economy and support residents in the surrounding community."

Davin added, "ISRP funding will support the necessary evaluation of the unused, remaining portion of this property.

"From there, Clarion County EDC can best determine how to appropriately utilize this space to bring opportunity to the surrounding community."

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