Why Erie Charter School Wants to Buy Vacant Quin-T Property

The deal is contingent on the completion of the full environmental cleanup process at the site, which could take an additional year or more to complete.

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An Erie charter school is looking to purchase the now-vacant former Quin-T Tech Paper and Boards property on Erie’s east side for a multi-million-dollar expansion of its campus.

The Erie County Redevelopment Authority has entered into a $142,683 purchase option agreement with Perseus House Charter School of Excellence, headquartered at 1511 Beech St., for the Queen-T property near East 16th Street and Ash Street, said Tina Mingin, the authority’s executive director. .

Purchasing the property is contingent on the Redevelopment Authority completing a full environmental cleanup of the site, Mengin and Renee Gordon, the charter school’s chief administrative officer, told the Erie Times-News.

This process may take an additional year, or more, to complete.

The authority owns the Quin-T site and is overseeing demolition, redevelopment and environmental cleanup at the property, a vacant industrial site where hazardous/toxic materials have sat abandoned for decades.

What are the charter school’s plans for the Quin-T site?

Gordon said the school plans to spend up to $12 million to create a “student health and recreation center” at the site that will include a gymnasium, event space, outdoor soccer/athletic fields, an outdoor kitchen and other amenities.

Gordon said the school conducted a feasibility study regarding the project. Public grants, bank financing and a private fundraising campaign are all considered potential funding sources for the project, Gordon said.

Both charter school students/faculty and the community will have access to the facilities, Gordon said.

“We’re looking to make an impact downtown, and for the neighborhood to be close to where we are (currently) is important to us,” Gordon said.

“It’s the neighborhood where a lot of our students come from,” Gordon continued. “We’re all about collaboration, and we want the neighborhood to thrive.”

Mingin added, “We need to clean it up and we admit that. But we’re excited about this project. It could be a great thing for the community.”

Cleaning progress: “Massive” underground storage tanks are being removed at the vacant Quin-T property in East Erie

Perseus House Charter School of Excellence, which began in 2003, is a public school celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

The Erie School District charter school of excellence operates three separate schools: Discovery Center, a middle school located at 1307 French Street in the Lovell Place complex; Skills Center for secondary school students in the same location; and the Leadership Center for high school students at 1511 Beech Street.

The Charter School of Excellence’s three schools serve approximately 575 students, according to the school’s website. Perseus House does not enroll any primary school students.

Quin-T Cleaning: “Whatever It Takes”

The Quin-T site is also located in a state designated environmental justice area, which the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection defines as any census tract where 20% or more of the population lives at or below the federal poverty line or where 30% of the population is defined as Non-white minority.

Environmental justice is a social movement to address concerns about the potential vulnerability of poor and marginalized communities to harm caused by hazardous waste, resource extraction, and other environmental issues.

In the census tract that includes the Queen-T property, 51% of residents live below the federal poverty level, according to U.S. Census Bureau data, more than three times Erie County’s overall poverty rate of 16%.

Nearly 60% of those who live there identify as non-white.

Before the sale can be completed, additional soil and groundwater testing still needs to be done at the Quin-T site, which closed in 2005. Testing could take a year or more to complete, Mengin said.

The cleanup will also likely include completely removing debris from the property; Removal of toxic substances. and/or new topsoil on site.

The property has an industrial history dating back to 1890. Asbestos board, a cardboard-like product that can be inserted between metal to produce gaskets, was once manufactured there.

Some demolition work on the property began in 2016; The bulk of the demolition and environmental remediation work, including asbestos removal, began in April 2021.

So far, just over $1 million in taxpayer money has been spent on demolition and environmental cleanup at the property. The county Redevelopment Authority paid $10,000 for the site in 2021.

The agreed-upon sales price of $142,683 between the authority and Perseus House Charter School of Excellence reflects, in part, “what we are putting into the property” in terms of environmental cleanup, Mengin said.

The Erie Times-News reported in July that tons of potentially hazardous materials were left inside both the dilapidated and unsecured Quin-T site, and another vacant industrial property owned by the county Redevelopment Authority, the former Erie Malleable Iron site at 603 W. 12th Street.

Materials left on the property included asbestos and chemicals/substances that have been linked to various cancers.

Danger zones: Asbestos, toxic chemicals are among the remaining risks at Erie’s Quin-T, EMI sites

The EMI site is currently being demolished. The publicly funded cost of demolition and cleanup there exceeds $2.2 million.

“We know we have to bring the property into Title II compliance under our agreement with the charter school,” Mingin said. “We intend to do whatever it takes to complete this.”

Mingin said the charter school’s pursuit of the Quin-T location makes sense.

“The property is close to their other sites, and we think it’s a great project that could have real benefits for the community,” Mungin said.

Mingen added that the sales agreement stipulates that the county Redevelopment Authority will complete a remediation process that meets the highest standards of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Title 2 program, which governs the environmental cleanup of former industrial sites.

The Act 2 cleanup will allow for the type of use that Charter School of Excellence plans to have on the property.

School officials have discussed their plans with Erie Mayor Joe Schember and officials with the Erie Housing Authority, said Gordon, the charter school’s chief administrative officer.

There are approximately 130 public housing units in the neighborhoods surrounding the Quin-T property.

The city of Erie supports charter school plans

Schember’s administration supports the Charter School of Excellence’s plans for the Quin-T property.

“We believe expanding the Charter School of Excellence into this neighborhood is a great reuse of the Quin-T property,” Shimper said.

He has publicly called the abandonment of the Quin-T site a “travesty” and praised the county Redevelopment Authority for launching cleanup efforts there — something the private sector is often unwilling or unable to do at large industrial sites because remediation can be expensive.

Gordon agreed. She said Charter School of Excellence could not afford to clean up the site on its own.

The Schember administration proposed renovating the Quin-T property into a large state park, using American Rescue Plan funds and other funding.

However, Schember said that since the charter school plans to allow the community access to the proposed new facilities, “I’m on board with it and fully support what they want to do.”

“The school plans to put this property to good and productive use,” Schember said. “And it benefits the children. That’s another positive thing.”

Contact Kevin Flowers at kflowers@timesnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ETNflowers.

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