Brendan Burke of Rand Commercial Services advises Orange County Leaders about Warwick Correctional Facility
WARWICK — For sale: One soon-to-be vacated prison on 772 secluded acres off Kings Highway in bucolic Warwick. Property includes 90 buildings. Seller is short on cash and highly motivated.
With the announcement Thursday that the state will close Mid-Orange Correctional Facility begins the complex task of conjuring a new purpose for a huge chunk of real estate that has provided medium-security lodging since 1977 and hosted a boys' reformatory for decades before that.
For a town starved for tax ratables because of its relative isolation, the upside of losing an operation with 309 employees is the potential conversion of a giant, tax-exempt property into a tax-generating one with new jobs.
How good are the redevelopment prospects for Mid-Orange?
Quite good, says Brendan Burke, of Rand Commercial Services, a commercial real estate firm with an office in Central Valley.
"It could be, if the zoning is right, a ripe apple to be plucked off the tree," he said.
The property's proximity to Kings Highway helps, Burke said, because that thoroughfare ultimately connects commercial traffic to Route 17 — a key concern for potential businesses. Plus, "the property itself is gorgeous," and it already has water and sewer service, he added.
"The repurposing of the site depends on how flexible the Town of Warwick will be with its rezoning," Burke said.
According to the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, the prison complex has 90 buildings encompassing a total of more than 564,000 square feet. The secured part of that operation occupies only 40 acres, a small piece of the state-owned land. Other sections are designated wetlands that couldn't be developed.
The largest of the state's five contiguous parcels is 733 acres. Orange County property records show that the full market value of that piece, including its buildings, is $49.1 million — well above what any developer would pay, said Burke, who suspects a buyer would tear down any structures except those with offices.
Whatever redevelopment plans emerge could be supported by $50 million in economic development funds the state has budgeted for host communities affected by the impending closure of seven prisons. Warwick Supervisor Mike Sweeton has expressed interest in creating an industrial park at the Mid-Orange site.