IMPERIAL — After years of neglect, the beloved who are buried at the Memorial Gardens Cemetery & Memorial Park can finally rest in peace knowing the cemetery will have new owners who plan to transform Memorial Gardens Cemetery into a heavenly resting place.
North America Power & Infrastructure Corporation held a round table at the Imperial County City Hall, January 7, with county, city and state officials asking for support to move the project along, subsequent to escrow closing.
“Our plan is to revive this cemetery from the dead, it’s been dead for a long time,” said Henry Palma, North American Power, President of Development. “This is an opportunity to make this place a beautiful resting place. Our main reason for asking for your support is in areas like permits, expediting the process with a letter of support.”
Memorial Gardens Cemetery & Memorial Park (MGC) sits along Highway 86 between the cities of Imperial and Brawley. The cemetery resembles a desert more than the resting place for hundreds of veterans and county residents.
The property (MGC) will be purchased under JRK International, Inc. a subsidiary of North American Power and Infrastructure, Inc. utilizing an EB-5 capital grant program.
EB-5 capital is a unique alternative to traditional sources of funds. The EB-5 program was established in 1990 to encourage foreigners to invest in the United States and create American jobs in exchange for a U.S. green card. To obtain the visa, individuals must invest $500,000 (or at least $100,000 in a targeted area of either high unemployment or rural setting), creating or preserving at least 10 jobs for U.S. workers, excluding the investor and their immediate family. As credit markets have tightened in the wake of the financial crisis, more and more American businesses and developers have turned toward EB-5 funds to raise the required capital for their projects.
“We (Board of Supervisors) have been working on that cemetery for eight or nine years,” said Michael “Mike” Kelley, D-3 Supervisor. “You probably got a good deal on it because the family had gone bankrupt putting a burden on the county and the city. At one point we tried to make it into a Veterans’ Memorial but the money wasn’t there. The other cemetery district doesn’t want to get involved because of the cost , so we absolutely welcome your interest in revitalizing the cemetery because it has been a dire place for a long, long time,” said Kelley.
North America Power & Infrastructure Corporation is purchasing the MGC from Pistol Rivers Properties Inc. who for a while was unwilling to sell, while at the same time unwilling to manage and upkeep the property. Escrow is scheduled to close in the next few weeks. The purchase price will be made available after sale is finalized.
Pistol Rivers Properties Inc. is a company based out of Delaware that owns many successful cemeteries across the country. For unknown reasons, they have allowed this one to fall into disrepair, to the point that no grass is growing, the irrigation system is broken, and the plots have sunken. The million-dollar endowment fund disappeared over the years, leaving rumors swirling that the money was not managed with the best interest of the cemetery or community in mind.
“It was a mission getting a hold of the owners who inherited the property (MGC) from their parents. We went through many difficulties, however the sellers have been very helpful and cooperative with the entire process,” said Palma.
According to Palma some of the delays include: the cemetery is not registered with Cemetery Bureau, there are no records of bodies interred, no outstanding of remaining deeds or rights to plots at the MGC, or the number of deeds resulting in escrow closing delays.
NAP plans to work closely with the Veterans Administration to build monuments to honor Veterans buried there.
“We on the county side will do whatever we have to do to expedite and fast-rack the permitting process that you are going to need,” said Kelley.
Imperial Mayor Doug Cox also expressed his support and reassured the city would do everything in their power to assist with the project.
Additionally, NAP plans to build a Chapel and Mortuary home at the site, build a wall enclosing the cemetery, and new landscaping which will include a water fountain. However, to accomplish these goals investors will need the expertise of local irrigation suppliers and solar companies.
“We have architects working on the design already that we are sure you will like,” said Palma.
North America Power & Infrastructure Corporation is based out of Cerritos, California and is an international Engineering Procurement Construction (EPC) company that specializes in the design and development of infrastructure conceptual plans into quality design packages for various industrial infrastructure projects.