At one time, a sprawling steel factory hovered over much of N. Cameron Street in Harrisburg.
The Harrisburg Steel Corp. stretched down about a mile from Herr Street, employing thousands of people but also belching out smoke that shrouded the city in haze on a windless day.
Then, decades ago, as the steel industry died off, so did the factory.
The Capital Region Economic Development Corp. (CREDC) now hopes to bring life back to this forlorn stretch of brownfields hard against the railroad tracks. Last month, it purchased 21.3 acres of industrial land and old buildings from Harsco, the corporate successor to the Harrisburg Steel Corp.
“We bought it at risk,” said CREDC President David Black. “We felt we could handle anything that was on there.”
That “anything” could include a number of toxic agents and contaminants that, over time, seeped into the soil and groundwater.
And, by “at risk,” Black means that CREDC performed a “phase 1” environmental assessment, which typically involves reviewing records and conducting interviews, before making the $505,000 purchase. It now needs to perform a more demanding “phase 2” assessment, which usually means extensive site, soil and water testing.
After testing, the site will need to be cleaned of contaminants before it can be sold to a new buyer.
If any problem areas are identified, CREDC will remediate the site with the help of the commonwealth’s Industrial Sites Reuse Program, Black said.
“This is in our comfort zone,” he said, citing CREDC’s work with the Dura-Bond site in Steelton. “We have a lot of experience doing this.”
Typically, CREDC invests in a property only when it feels confident that the land can be sold after it’s cleaned up. Black confirmed that there is “interest in the site,” but declined to name the interested party.
Not all of the land of the former steel plant site is fallow. Part of the property is now occupied by the World Trade Center Harrisburg, formerly called the Capitol View Commerce Center. The building, at the corner of Cameron and Herr streets, houses several companies, including the major logistics company, Moran Industries.
Notably, the sale marks the end of a significant presence in the city for Harsco, which traces its roots to 1853 with the formation of the Harrisburg Car Manufacturing Co., which produced railcars. The company later went into the pipe manufacturing and steel businesses. Now based in Camp Hill, Harsco is a worldwide, diversified industrial company.