After struggling to find a profitable use for the former Mercyhurst North East campus, the current owners are floating the idea of housing illegal immigrants as a way to recover their investment. By contrast, in Homestead, PA, near Pittsburgh, three individual investors bought an old abandoned school building and turned it into Bowtie High containing 31 beautiful apartments and the income from those rentals is enabling them to buy another school across the street where they’ll do the same thing.
The old main buildings at Granite Ridge are in very good condition, unlike what the Homestead investors had to start with, which was a rundown and crumbling interior. The transformation is amazing and the apartments were fully occupied within 6 months at $1400 per month for a one bedroom and $1600 for a two bedroom.
Just like Granite Ridge, they had a lot of old and interesting architecture which adds to the look and feel of the building and being an historical landmark, they were able to get tax credits from Pennsylvania and the federal government.
What’s amazing is that the Granite Ridge buildings seem far more amenable to a conversion than the example in Homestead, plus the property here has much more to offer, multiple commercial kitchens with one specifically set up for baking, classrooms, labs and on the upper floor, facilities used in the nursing program which could be easily converted into an on-site medical office with exam rooms and even a multi-bed patient area. Elsewhere there’s a fully functional cafeteria with serving line, a 100 seat theater, a large recreational area formerly used for the student union, a weight room, a gorgeous basketball court with bleachers and much, much more.
Just to be very clear, the old main buildings need a lot of work to convert them for whatever use is proposed and a sizable investment will be necessary, but no one could have looked at the property before purchase and thought otherwise.
In a recent conversation with Bill Unger, the current property manager, it was obvious he’s made a serious effort to come up with potential ideas for development, but no one person can generate as many ideas as crowdsourcing from an entire community. The North East community has not offered their thoughts because everyone was under the impression that Granite Ridge was going to become a sports based facility like the SPIRE Institute in Ohio, but according to Unger, that was never promised, so while we sat back and waited, nothing was built and now, the prospect of a detention facility is being proposed.
Granite Ridge, if they are interested in being a positive asset to our community, must immediately stop thinking along those lines. The property is so central to North East it would be an absolute travesty to use it to house illegal immigrants for the federal government, with all of the collateral effects it would spread, but on our part, saying no, isn’t enough.
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We need great ideas
The above example from Homestead, PA is just one. It may not be directly applicable in every way, but it certainly shows what some out of the box thinking can do. With all of the brainpower we have as a community, there could be some real idea gems out there, so what do you say? What are your ideas for what Granite Ridge could or should become?