West Bradford says no thanks to Embreeville property

The environmental cost associated with the cleanup of the Embreeville State School and Hospital Property is the reason West Bradford has appraised the site in negative numbers. Many of the buildings are asbestos-laden. Staff photo by Fran Maye.

WEST BRADFORD – Despite an asking price of just $950,000, township officials said they are not interested in purchasing a 225-acre tract of land that at one time was home of the state-run Embreeville School and Hospital off Strasburg Road.

“We had the property appraised in July of 2011, and it came in at negative $6.8 million,” said Tommy Ryan, West Bradford manager. “We’ve been looking to acquire that property for many years, and we crunched the numbers, but we just couldn’t make it work. We need to plow and pave roads and maintain our stormwater system. If we were to assume the financial burden of that property it would jeopardize our (other) services.”

The property, which includes 16 buildings and the grave site of Indian Hannah, the last of the Lenni-Lenape Indians to live in Chester County, is being put up for public bid by the state as is. Most of the land is located in West Bradford but 15 acres are in Newlin.

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The environmental cost associated with the cleanup of the buildings is the reason the site is appraised in negative numbers. Many of the buildings are asbestos-laden.

Ryan said the township has been negotiating with the state since 1997 to acquire the land that could be converted to a park.

“Years ago, the property had a lot more value and the township was working with developers in a partnership to redevelop the property, and then the economic downturn happened and the real estate market collapsed,” Ryan said. “Today, the value is a lot less and we don’t have a partner or developer to work with.”

Ryan said the state refused an offer by the township to buy about 80 acres of the southern portion of the tract.

For the past 25 years, the West Bradford Youth Association used fields at the Embreeville site for soccer, lacrosse and baseball games. WBYA paid the state $1 per year for use of the land. But the WBYA will lose the right to use the field once it is purchased.

“It was a good deal, but good deals don’t last forever,” Ryan said.

Officials at nearby United States Training Complex off Marshallton-Thorndale Road informed the WBYA they could accommodate all teams at its facility if it is booted from the Embreeville site. That may entail additional costs, however, likely to be borne by parents who enroll their children in the sports.

The land has four uses by right: agricultural, educational, municipal and office space. Park and recreation use is also allowed. Residential use, however, is not permitted.

State General Services Secretary Sheri Phillips said the site “is close to pristine residential developments, good schools, and numerous dining and shopping venues.” She said the sale is the result of efforts to remove unused Commonwealth property – and associated maintenance costs – from inventory.

The Embreeville State School and Hospital was once a county poor house in the 1800s, and later became the Chester County Home and Hospital for the Insane. It was taken over by the state in 1938 and closed in 1980.

The invitation to bid for the Embreeville State School and Hospital Property can be found online at www.emarketpalce.state.pa.us by selecting “solicitations” and typing 94457 for the solicitation number, or by calling the bureau of Real Estate at 717-772-8842.

Bids, which must include a check for 2 percent of the offer, are due to the Department of General Services no later than Dec. 19, 2012.