Perched atop an Adirondack mountain, a 325-acre site for sale seems to have everything a developer could want: spectacular views, a man-made lake, and proximity to the tourist destination of Saratoga Springs. The property on Mount McGregor was also a New York state prison, and if history is any guide, it will be a tough sell, the Associated Press reports. States have found out the hard way that stunning views and good locations are not enough to overcome the baggage that comes with former prison sites. Massive, thick-walled cell blocks, dormitories and infirmaries tend to be too expensive to tear down and too restrictive to turn into viable enterprises.
At least 22 states have closed or announced plans to close 94 state prisons and juvenile facilities since 2011, and only a handful have been sold or repurposed, says The Sentencing Project, a criminal justice reform advocacy group. “This is new territory in a lot of respects,” said the group’s Nicole Porter. “This will require some creativity from developers for what to do with these spaces.” Mount McGregor Correctional Facility, on the market for a second time in two years, is among 13 prison and incarceration camps in New York that have closed since 2011. Only four have been sold. A few states have seen successes. In Virginia, a former District of Columbia prison built in the 1920s has been sold to Fairfax County, which is overseeing redevelopment that will include more than 270 single-family homes, townhouses and apartments. In Tennessee, the Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary, closed in 2009, is being turned into a whiskey distillery and tourist attraction.