State offering 225-acre Embreeville complex ‘as is’ for minimum bid of $950,000
By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times
If you have at least $950,000, the state has a deal: a 225-acre tract nestled in pastoral West Bradford and Newlin Townships featuring two tributaries of the Brandywine, hilltop vistas, and “some very attractive development opportunities.”
State General Services Secretary Sheri Phillips announced Tuesday that the Embreeville State School and Hospital Property is now up for public bid.
“As part of our continuing efforts to remove unused Commonwealth property from our inventory –and the maintenance costs associated with them – we are taking an aggressive approach selling this property,” Phillips said in a news release. “The property is close to pristine residential developments, good schools, West Chester University and numerous dining and shopping venues.”
The state’s sales pitch does not mention the potential for unconventional bragging rights that ownership could bring. A state hospital operated at the site from about 1947 to 1988, with residential buildings named for their locations, such as Hilltop, Wood View, Meadow View and Pleasant View.
Before that, the tract, which has an address of 1818 Strasburg Rd., Coatesville housed the Chester County Almshouse, a “poorhouse” dating back to the 1800s that was demolished in the 1960s, according to records from West Bradford Township, which includes about 210 of the 225 acres.
The property even boasts the gravesite of Indian Hannah, the last of the Lenni-Lenape Indians to reside in Chester County. For added thrills, an underground passageway connects two groups of old hospital buildings. And the property comes with a security bonus: close proximity to the Embreeville barracks of the state police.
Before you grab your checkbook, though, the package is being sold “as is,” which could hike the pricetag.
West Bradford Township Manager Tommy Ryan said his municipality has worked with the state since 1997 on the possibility of acquiring the tract, primarily for use as a park.
Such an arrangement would have enabled West Bradford Youth Athletics (WBYA), an independent entity, to continue using the land it has leased for a nominal fee the past 25 years for soccer and baseball games.
Ryan said the group was notified two weeks ago that its lease would terminate Dec. 23; however, the state backed off that deadline last week, informing the organization that it could stay until a new property owner is selected.
West Bradford did an appraisal on the property as recently as a year ago, said Ryan. The result: negative $6.8 million.
Ryan explained that the property’s 16 buildings, many loaded with asbestos and in various stages of disrepair, can’t just be razed. “You have to clean them up before you knock them down,” said Ryan, calling the remediation costs excessive.
West Bradford’s zoning for the tract is institutional/mixed use, he said, a designation that would permit agricultural, municipal, park, educational, or office uses – not retail or residential.
Once the costs for the entire property soared, Ryan said the township offered to buy the southern portion of the parcel, about 85 acres presently being used by WBYA, but the state declined.
That news didn’t please Janie Baird, who heads the Newlin Township supervisors. “It would be a shame to lose the playing fields, which benefit so many organizations,” she said. “I guess that also means we can’t purchase our portion – even if we could come up with the money.”
Baird said Newlin’s approximate 15 acres include the Indian Hannah gravesite, which was restored several years ago by the township. She said the narrow roads surrounding the Embreeville tract cannot handle more traffic, making any institutional option for the site problematic.
The solution? A preservation benefactor.
“It’s a dream for the township to own that land,” she said. “We would love for someone to come forward.”
The invitation to bid for the Embreeville State School and Hospital Property can be found online at www.emarketplace.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 or emailing the real-estate coordinator, Michael Showers, at email@example.com.
Bids, which must be accompanied by a check for 2 percent of the offer, are due no later than 3 p.m. Dec. 19.