PERTH — New life is coming to the long-dormant Tryon Technology Park, with three confirmed or potential projects in the works.
Since the state shut down the youth detention facility there a decade ago, some infrastructure improvements have been completed but little visible progress has been made toward the goal of bringing jobs and economic activity back to the 515-acre site.
Since the closure, a medical marijuana growing and processing operation has been the only employer to set up operations there.
James Mraz, executive director of the Fulton County Industrial Development Agency, said Friday that recent developments offer promise of a partial turnaround:
- Most significantly, the marijuana company, Vireo Health, has purchased an additional 90 acres and plans to start construction next month on 325,000 square feet of new space so it can be ready for the opening of the recreational marijuana market in New York; to start, it will demolish eight decaying buildings.
- The 27 acres south of County Road 107 dotted with several small buildings have been sold for possible use as a probiotic production facility.
- Lott Holdings of Amsterdam is under contract to purchase the 15,000-square-foot building used for maintenance purposes during the prison era; its plan is to renovate and reuse the structure.
Mraz said these are major steps forward.
Just last week, Vireo presented its plans to the IDA, he said. They call for an investment of $50 million to $55 million and creation of up to 180 jobs.
That makes significant progress toward replacing the more than 300 state employees who once drew an annual payroll of more than $15 million at what was euphemistically called the Tryon Boys and Girls Center, a detention facility for teenagers convicted of serious crimes.
The state deeded the property to Fulton County in recognition of the economic impact the closure was having on the area.
The state has sought reuses for some of the other detention facilities it has shut down, also with limited results. The old Mount McGregor Correctional Facility in neighboring Saratoga County has proved a tough sell, for example.
The Tryon acreage will go back on the property tax rolls for the first time in half a century as it goes back into private hands.
“That was the county’s and the IDA’s primary objective,” Mraz said: jobs and tax revenue.
The IDA has been pursuing that goal since taking over the site in early 2014.
It has been a long seven years. Progress was made in preparing the site for reuse — multiple shovel-ready sites are offered for sale — but there’s been limited success in securing new occupants.
“We knew this wasn’t going to be filled quickly,” Mraz said.
The tech park has two things going for it: A quiet, rural setting and a level of infrastructure — water, sewer, gas and electric — rarely seen in such a pastoral setting. But the rural setting is also a big negative: It’s quite a distance from the Thruway and offers limited public visibility.
There’s also heavy competition from other development agencies.
“I’ve been doing this for 40 years,” Mraz said. “Every project you get you realize how lucky you are because those companies could go anywhere.”
Additionally, there are limits on what can be built there. The town of Perth created a very specific list of permitted uses within the Business and Technology Zone that ranges from high-tech and R&D to offices and housing to sports facilities and conference centers.
Anything not on the list couldn’t be set up there without a variance from the town.
The largest building on site has proved to be a bit of a white elephant: The main building contains a gym, pool, auditorium, offices and classrooms within its 60,000 feet. A 15,000-square-foot vocational training center is attached.
Notwithstanding some break-ins and interior vandalism inflicted in late 2020, they are in good condition, a far cry from the smaller buildings that Vireo will demolish.
“The buildings are structurally in fabulous shape,” Mraz said, “despite not being heated or maintained since 2013.”
The IDA has the same problem trying to sell the main building as it has marketing the shovel-ready empty fields nearby — their location. But the difficulty is compounded by the layout and components of the interior space.
“We’ve had limited interest in it,” Mraz said.
“We just keep plugging away. Like any property, it just takes the right party with the right use.”