Transformation Planned for Laurelton Center

The Laurelton Center, located along Route 45 in Hartley Township, Pennsylvania, may be undergoing a major transformation over the next few years. Plans for the former institution, which once housed mentally-challenged residents, include a conference center and a championship-length, Arnold Palmer Design golf course.

The Hickernell Springs Resort will feature 125 rooms, most of which will be in the former hospital building, with the remaining rooms in surrounding cottages. Also included is a registration area; ballrooms (located in two of the larger buildings on campus); an indoor pool and health spa; an outdoor pool; and at least two restaurants. About five of the cottages may be earmarked for condominiums and sold to corporations for use by employees.

The Palmer course will wrap around the complex, which spans 335 acres and involves 52 buildings. The Laurelton Center was closed in 1998 following a 77-year period as a state-run institution. Besides $7 million budgeted for the golf course, another $24 million is needed to renovate the buildings. About $5 million of that amount will be used to remove asbestos hazards. Two other hazardous disposal sites on the property must also be cleaned up.

The backers of the resort plan to secure financing within six months. The group also needs a half-year to secure the necessary zoning and building permits. If all goes well, the facility could open in late 2003 or early 04. Once the project comes to fruition, the developers plan to turn over the management of the resort and the course to private operators.