Shell cracker plant spurs $7 million development loan for nearby site

A regional site development fund has agreed to loan nearly $7 million to help an industrial park project in Beaver County get ready for possible distribution and manufacturing facilities.

And though it’s still clearing the 100-acre site and has yet to dig utility lines, the site’s developer has Royal Dutch Shell’s ethane cracker plant in mind.

Castlebrook Development Group, whose Turnpike Industrial Park property will be about 15 miles north of the cracker plant, is looking to get the site ready for construction, spurred on by the cracker development, said Pat Nardelli, founder and manager of the group.

With the loan, the nearly $9 million development in Big Beaver could complete site preparations in six months and have three parcels ready for buildings in 2018, well ahead of Shell’s massive petrochemical plant in Monaca, which is expected to begin operating in the early 2020s.

“Being able to close on the property and be in the position to have pad-ready sites for up to one million square feet — all within six months of closing — is an achievement that would not be within our reach without the loan,” Mr. Nardelli said.

The loan is the fourth doled out by the Power of 32 Site Development Fund, a $49 million pot of money launched two years ago to help developers clear sites quickly to make way for buildings.

The Allegheny Conference on Community Development spearheaded the fundraising, which has 15 limited partners that include regional banks, charitable foundations and companies.

Support from the fund is advantageous because it lends money to developers at below-market interest rates for infrastructure work, such as site grading, sewer, water, roads and environmental remediation. Traditional lenders usually don’t offer such deals so early in a project’s development, said Joshua J. Lavrinc, chief executive officer at Robinson-based Callay Capital, which manages the fund.

And because the investment is made with no expectation of turning a quick profit, Mr. Lavrinc said, the money is paid back over a longer period of time — typically over five years — once the site is developed. 

The development fund focuses on brownfield sites that have the potential to economically “move the needle” in low-income neighborhoods that have been left behind, he said.

“We’re talking about 100 acres of land that will support a significant amount of development,” Mr. Lavrinc said of the Big Beaver property. “This was unused land that had not been in the path of progress that now is in the path.”

The group’s first loan of $2.6 million was approved in 2015 to an 80-acre brownfield site on the Ohio River in Follansbee, W.Va., that was developed into an industrial park with barge, rail and truck access. 

Last year, it approved $5.7 million for the second phase of Clinton Commerce Park in Findlay near Pittsburgh International Airport and $9.5 million to help fund site preparation at Almono in Hazelwood.

“We are open for business and looking for projects that are ready to move today,” Mr. Lavrinc said.

The latest loan was announced before the annual meeting of the Beaver County Corporation for Economic Development at the Wooden Angel restaurant in Beaver. 

Jim Palmer, president of the agency, said the loan is a sign of interest in development near Shell’s ethane cracker plant, now under construction.

“We are seeing increased demand for real estate in the county, specifically related to Shell and generally because Shell’s presence validates the region as a quality real estate opportunity,” Mr. Palmer said. 

Daniel Moore:, 412-263-2743 and Twitter @PGdanielmoore.

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