Watch Us on YouTube Follow Us on Facebook

Trolleyworks - Frequently Asked Questions and Complaints

Frequently asked questions and complaints.

Answers by Eric Wolf, AMTRAN General Manager


We suggest that you at least skim the Trolleyworks page for basic information on the project, then check back here for details.


Why did AMTRAN use the money for a building instead of adding service on the street?


The funding was for capital projects only (like buildings and equipment) and could not be used for operating expenses (like adding service).  The good news is that the money that AMTRAN makes by leasing the property can be used for operating expenses.


Didn’t AMTRAN pay too much for the Roaring River Mills property?


I have two answers for that question.


AMTRAN paid $1,225,000 for the entire 3.2 acre property in November 2008 (less the cost of environmental mitigation – see below).


First of all, the price was based on an appraisal performed by a reputable private-sector Altoona appraiser.  Further, the appraisal was reviewed by PennDOT’s appraisal department before being approved by the Federal Transit Administration. 


Because of their many highway projects, PennDOT is very experienced in appraising and purchasing real estate.  (I don’t know about you, but I’ve heard people complain that PennDOT under-paid them for their property, but I haven’t heard anybody boast that PennDOT over-paid them.)


Secondly, Family Video paid $750,000 when they purchased the adjacent 1.6 acre property.  Do the math based on that comparable, and you can argue that Roaring River Mills, at 3.2 acres, had a value of $1,500,000.  In that scenario, AMTRAN got an 18% discount.


Who paid for the environmental mitigation?


The sales price of $1,225,000 to previous owner Norman Glucroft was reduced by the cost of the environmental mitigation, approximately $200,000.  Mr. Glucroft (now deceased) received about $1,000,000 for the property.


It’s important to remember that Mr. Glucroft did not cause the environmental problems at the site.  Those problems were already there when he bought the property in the early 1960’s.  It’s just at that time, there were no environmental regulations.  Fast forward almost 50 years and he was stuck with a very expensive problem that he did not create.  The Act 2 Special Industrial Clearance (see below) will clear any environmental liability for Mr. Glucroft's estate, AMTRAN, and any future owner.


How much of the property remains on the tax rolls?


All of the property stayed on the tax rolls.  AMTRAN will be paying real estate taxes to the City of Altoona, Blair County, and Altoona Area School District on the entire site.


Isn’t AMTRAN interfering with the private sector by developing this site?


Over the 10 years that the property sat vacant and deteriorating, any private developer who was interested had plenty of opportunity to buy Roaring River Mills.  Many prospects were concerned about the potential environmental problems. 


As it turns out, they were right to be concerned.  A private sector developer would have to meet DEP’s “Statewide Health Standards” in order to develop the property.  Independent reports estimate the cost of that cleanup from $500,000 to over $1,000,000.


Because AMTRAN is a non-profit municipal authority, we were able to get an “Act 2 Special Industrial Clearance” which cost approximately $200,000.


With environmental cleanup costs approaching $1,000,000, there is no telling how long the Roaring River Mills site would have sat waiting for private sector development.


Won’t the Trolleyworks Phase I hurt the commercial real estate market for the private sector?


AMTRAN created three tenant spaces totaling 7,800 square feet of flex space (hardly a glut on the market) and will be charging market rates.


In 2002, ABCD Corp. opened the Devorris Center for Business Development with 24,000 square feet of flex space available at market rates. Within 18 months, they achieved 100% occupancy and have had to turn away prospects since.


In spite of ABCD’s success, there has not been one square foot of flex space built in Blair County in the ensuing 10 years.  I suggest that the private sector has had ample opportunity to compete in this market.


Is there a role for the private sector in the Trolleyworks Business Park?


Actually, the largest part of the site will be developed by the private sector.  AMTRAN will competitively select a private firm to develop the 2+ acres fronting 6th Avenue and 35th Street.


AMTRAN’s investment in that part of the property is the real estate purchase, the environmental mitigation, and the demolition of the Roaring River Mills building and old foundations to clear the site for development.  In exchange for that investment, the developer will pay AMTRAN a long-term land lease.


The developer will use their own private financing to build whatever commercial use the market calls for.  


What about those crazy tunnels I saw on the news when River River Mills was demolished?


I know that they looked like tunnels, but it was actually a huge basement covered over with dirt and fill.  In looking over the property, we knew that there was a partial basement from the streetcar company's power plant that had been demolished decades ago, but we didn't realize how extensive it was.  In other words, we knew there was a hole, but we didn't know it was that big.


There were some very impressive brick and concrete pylons in the old basement that supported the huge boilers that generated electricity for the streetcar company to run the trolleys.  Unfortunately, there were no old records, tools, etc.  It was a lot like Geraldo Rivera opening Al Capone's vault - lots of excitement followed by a big letdown.


Rather than just cover up the basement and foundation again, we had our demolition contractors unearth and demolish the walls and floors, then truck the debris away as part of clearing the site for development.



Return to Trolleyworks page.