Glades Correctional Institution bought by local investors

BELLE GLADE, Fla. - Henry Rionda drove by the Glades Correctional Institution every morning when he was a kid growing up in Belle Glade. Now he co-owns it.

He and five other local businessmen paid $1.2 million for the former 211 acre prison that has more than fifty buildings.

It was last used by the state in 2011 before shutting down.

"This is the last thing on earth I thought I would own! I'm just hoping I don't get locked in one of the cells by accident," Rionda said.

Jokes aside, Rionda and five others bought the prison to bring jobs to Belle Glade.

The six partners who make up the group include former Mayor Tom Altman, Dennis Wedgeworth, three members of the Rionda family, and Thomas King.

"We have all grown up out here and we all have a common interest in seeing something on the site other than it being a prison," Rionda said.

When the prison shutdown in 2011, hundreds of jobs went with it.

Rionda says they are still tossing out ideas with what to do on the site, but the bottom line he says is they want to do something positive for the community.

"We figured it would be a good spot for possible distribution or commercial. We want to bring jobs in," Rionda said.

The site is close to major highways and there are also railroad tracks that run through the property.

"Some of the buildings might serve us a use still. There is a warehouse upfront that is in good shape and loading docks," Rionda said.

Ideas for its use are spreading around Belle Glade like wildfire. Some hope that movies could be shot on the site and others would like to see  a medical complex or office park.