$500,000 donated to buy Pittsburgh Cut Flower property

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An effort to preserve one of the region's largest tracts of undeveloped land continues to inch forward, but a couple of significant hurdles must be cleared before the project reaches fruition.

The Allegheny Land Trust, based in Sewickley, has received a $500,000 state grant from the Department of Community and Economic Development through the Allegheny County redevelopment authority.

The money will be used to purchase 180 acres known as the Pittsburgh Cut Flower property off Bakerstown Road in Richland. It had been a greenhouse operation from about 1910 to 1990.

The newest infusion of money, the receipt of which was announced Oct. 24, raises the total to $1.8 million for the purchase and cleanup of the site, said land trust executive director Chris Beichner.

Revenue sources range from local charitable foundations to state grants that included $509,500 from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources announced in February. Another large grant, for $350,000, was from Pittsburgh-based Colcom Foundation.

The project involves preserving the majority of the land as well as removing the deteriorating buildings on the property once owned by Pittsburgh Cut Flower.

The land trust has agreed to purchase the property for $1.4 million from Legacy Landings LLC in New York.

One obstacle to completing the deal is agreement on the cleanup costs, which had been estimated at $1 million, but Mr. Beichner said now is being estimated by the property owners at a figure that could be double that amount.

"We're in the process of evaluating this. We've agreed to reimburse reasonable cleanup costs but we many not be able or willing to cover 100 percent," Mr. Beichner said.

Officials had hoped to close the land deal in June but has pushed the closing date to mid-December.

The land trust is interested in buying the property for several reasons, including the assessment that it is important to the preservation of the watershed.

The land is at the headwaters of the Montour Run tributary to Pine Creek, one of the cleanest tributaries in the watershed.

Maintaining most of the property green and undeveloped ensures that the tributary remains unpolluted.

The vision for the property is to keep about 150 acres of land undeveloped and to sell the remainder for development.

Another hurdle is the revenue raised by the local community.

Mr. Beichner said the land trust wants a local contribution of $140,000. So far, about $75,000 has been raised.

Meanwhile, a funding application is pending to the state for $250,000, and Mr. Beichner is hoping to receive good news in late November.

"We're keeping our fingers crossed," he said. The grant is from the Department of Community and Economic Development's Act 13 funds.

Anyone interested in making a charitable contribution can contact Mr. Beichner via the land trust's website, www.alleghenylandtrust.org or 412-741-2750.

Karen Kane: kkane@post-gazette.com or 724-772-9180.

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