BioNitrogen Holdings Corp. of West Palm Beach, Fla., plans to build a $330 million fertilizer plant at Reading’s Riverview Industrial Park – bringing with it hundreds of jobs.
That is, if the Reading Redevelopment Authority thinks it’s a viable project and sells property to BioNitrogen.
“We are pretty close, but how close I do not know,” said Adam Mukerji, executive director of the Reading Redevelopment Authority. “We have got to be careful. There are no guarantees.”
Last week, a press conference was to be held at Reading’s City Hall, where the redevelopment authority was set to announce a formal agreement – or memorandum of understanding – with BioNitrogen. But the meeting was halted when the redevelopment authority had unanswered questions.
BioNitrogen’s company chairman and CEO, Carlos Conteras, said he cannot provide details until a memorandum is in place.
“We are in the due diligence [phase] and have not yet signed [a memorandum of understanding] with Reading,” he said. “I will be happy to speak … upon execution of the same.”
BioNitrogen, a clean-tech company, utilizes patented technology to convert agricultural biomass into urea used in the agricultural industry as a crop fertilizer. BioNitrogen’s technology transforms residual agricultural waste and other biomass materials into bulk urea for sale to agricultural wholesalers and retailers.
Now a week later, the RRA is continuing to explore BioNitrogen’s intent to buy and transform the 50-acre parcel of land into a plant that would convert solid waste biomass into urea fertilizer.
“It [moving forward with the project] depends on several different factors, many of which are being vetted by the RRA,” said Jon Scott, president and CEO of the Greater Reading Economic Partnership.
The RRA bought the site at 1 Opportunity Drive in November 2013, an undeveloped property one time planned for the Berkshire Bottling Works. The site is zoned for manufacturing and commercial use and has a 105,000-square-foot building pad, with a partial steel structure, in place.
The purchase price is $6 million, and the property, equipped with water and sewer mains, has rail access.
The memorandum of understanding, if signed by the RRA, does not constitute authority to sell the premises, and a sale cannot occur without further vote and authorization from the RRA board.
A new press conference will be scheduled, Mukerji said, if and when a memorandum is signed.
The property will continue to be available for purchase until the memorandum is signed. If it is signed, the RRA has to remove the property from the real estate market for 90 days while the parties continue to explore the viability of the project.
Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer has confidence in the RRA, and Mukerji and Scott both confirmed there are other companies that have shown interest in the site.
“Mayor Spencer continues to support the RRA’s efforts to bring the highest and best use redevelopment to this site,” according to a press release from his office. “And encourages them to ensure the project’s viability before moving forward.”