Saturday, May 15, 2021

Industrial space along Spring Creek to be revitalized

BELLEFONTE — In a town as historic as Bellefonte, there are bound to be a few old buildings that have fallen out of use over the years, and the former Sutton Engineering property, located on the banks of Spring Creek, is one of those buildings.

The property, at 238 S. Potter St., was recently purchased by a local group of partners who hope to revitalize the space.

The large complex rests on 7.87 acres and has 75,369 square feet of space, although it is not completely empty. Currently, 23,812 square feet of the space is leased. That leaves at least 51,557 square feet available on the property for those who can dream as big as the owners, who see the location as having a potential use that could benefit the area.

“We have a long-term vision we are working on. We are exploring a lot of recreation-use interests … sports use. There seems to be a lot of demand for that in the area, such as soccer, gymnastics and indoor tennis. We have a lot of different folks expressing interest in the space,” said co-owner Greg Scott, who purchased the building in November with partners Scott Hildebrand, John Conroy and Ben Scott.

The large open space and the location along the stream, close to Talleyrand Park and the up-and-coming Bellefonte Waterfront District, drew the group to the property when it realized it was for sale last summer.

“We thought it had potential for something, particularly because of the location with the stream and being so close to downtown. We came in without any preconceived notions about what it would be,” said Scott.

Since purchasing the property, the group has been busy cleaning and stabilizing the area. Now, it is talking to people in the community about potential ideas for the property.

“We are talking to the borough and we are talking to other folks around the region on what ideas, what is the interest and how can this building be used, not only for a particular use, but in the community and how that might help the community,” said Scott.

Part of the inspiration for the property is what has been done nearby at Titan Energy Park, he said. That location was revitalized with the help of the Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, and is now home to Axemann Brewery and other businesses.

“It is a similar space, but we saw this as being a little bit different. It is a smaller space, still a pretty big space, but a little more contained and a little easier to get your arms around, and I would say it is in a little better condition in that it is insulated and has heat and it is a pretty tight building,” said Scott. He said they have many ideas about what to do with the space, such as keeping it an industrial and office space setting, “to things like a brewery or something like that, or some sort of retail space or for a recreation use. So, we have just been open to all the various ideas.”

The Sutton property has a long history. According to an article in the Pennsylvania Historic Resource Series published in 2006, the property was first home to the Blanchard Planning Mill and was later home to Bellefonte Care Manufacturing Co. back in 1873, which produced railroad freight cars. The Sutton Engineering Co. bought part of the property in 1921 and another in 1922 and expanded the facility several times.

Bellefonte Borough Manager Ralph Stewart took a tour of the area recently with the owners and said the property has “tremendous potential.”

“We want to adapt it to more of a commercial mixed-use setting, and it has great potential for economic development here in the borough and even the region of Centre County,” said Stewart. He said projects like this show how Bellefonte continues to grow.

“It is exciting,” said Stewart. “We have plenty of life and the future has tremendous opportunity for Bellefonte.”

Hildebrand plans to use one of old buildings as a new location for his business, Rothrock Wood Project, which salvages downed trees and turns them into bar tops, coffee tables, end tables, dining tables, charcuterie boards and grazing tables. He hopes to be set at the location in the coming months and also sees the property as having a lot of potential.

“I think it is going to be a great location for me,” said Hildebrand. “We are big dreamers.”