Pharmaceutical firm buys golf-course acreage

An international pharmaceutical company’s plan to build a multimillion-dollar distribution center on the site of the closed Island Green Golf Course in the Far Northeast has been talked about since the fall. The talk has finally gained some substance.

Denise Bradley, a spokeswoman for Teva North America, said last week that the Israeli generic-drug manufacturer finalized its purchase of a 136-acre section of the former 18-hole golf course at 1 Red Lion Road, along the Bustleton/Somerton border, during an Aug. 18 settlement.

Teva paid $40 million for the tract, which was owned by White Pine Partners, operators of the former course. According to city records, Island Green had a market value of $4.2 million.

Bradley did not respond to an e-mailed question from the Times that sought to learn what established the $40-million price tag that Teva paid for the 136 acres. A spokesman for J.G. Petrucci, the project’s developer, also didn’t respond to questions about the real-estate transaction.

The golf course, a former site of the old Budd Co. plant, which produced rail cars, encompassed about 200 total acres and extended into Montgomery County.

Bradley said that Teva representatives hope to meet soon with residents of the area, but the company plans to start construction at the site at some point this month.

Dolores Barbieri, president of the Somerton Civic Association, figured that Teva would move swiftly.

ldquo;I knew they were going to work pretty fast once they settled,” the civic leader said last week.

Last October, when the deal to bring Teva to Northeast Philadelphia was formally announced, city and state officials said the company would spend $300 million to build and equip its million-square-foot North American distribution complex. The project is expected to create up to 600 construction jobs and 400 permanent positions at Teva when the facility opens in mid-2013.

But in addition to those jobs and the wage taxes they’ll generate for the cash-starved city, the distribution complex will breed a lot of traffic.

About 200 trucks per day will travel along Red Lion Road to the facility, according to figures that Teva supplied in October. All those trucks — and the cars driven by Teva employees — worry Barbieri.

“It just comes down to traffic, traffic, traffic,” she said during an interview earlier in the summer. “I don’t understand how they don’t see the impact.”

When the Teva project was announced in the fall, a spokesman for the developer, the J.G. Petrucci Co. of Asbury Park, N.J., said truck traffic was expected to originate at Philadelphia International Airport and from the New York and New Jersey ports. Trucks would approach the property on Red Lion Road, coming east from Interstate 95 and the Roosevelt Boulevard, and turn right onto Sandmeyer Lane, said Petrucci spokesman Tim Spreitzer. He had said the company didn’t expect trucks to move west of Sandmeyer.

Employee traffic, however, would travel west of Sandmeyer and enter the property from Red Lion Road, where there already is a signal. Much of the property fronts onto Red Lion, which, just west of that traffic light, slims down to a two-lane street.

Barbieri said she attended a meeting with city officials and company executives in June. She was told that 50 to 60 trucks travel to a company facility in North Wales each day without problems.

“I said, ‘That’s not two-hundred (trucks),’” she said.

Traffic was a big concern in 2009 and 2010 when Teva originally proposed building the distribution center on 150 acres at County Line Road and Limekiln Pike in Warrington, Pa.

Two-lane County Line Road is often congested, even when it widens to four lanes farther east of Limekiln. It would have had to be improved to handle the truck traffic. Zoning variances also were needed in Warrington.

The Warrington Coalition, a community group, opposed the plan, and there were anti-Teva signs along Warrington’s roads. More than 1,000 people signed an online petition in opposition to Teva’s proposal.

With its switch to the site along Red Lion Road, Teva expects to erect two buildings 85 feet in height. Those buildings and an adjoining 45-foot-high structure will provide up to 1.2 million square feet of space.

When the drug-maker’s complex opens in mid-2013, operations will be 24 hours a day, five days a week.

For decades, the acreage had supported the rail-car operations of the Budd Co. When the plant closed in 1987, parent company Transit America eventually undertook a $30 million environmental cleanup of the property. White Pine Partners subsequently purchased the acreage and established the golf course. ••

Reporter John Loftus can be reached at 215–354–3110 or jloftus@bsmphilly.com