River Ridge Development Authority officially owns the 6,000 acres of River Ridge Commerce Center free and clear, a milestone it marked Wednesday with the symbolic burning of the master lease agreement with the former property owner U.S. Army.

After a remediation process, the U.S. Army turned over the final lot, 293.4 acres, on Aug. 5, 2016, allowing the authority to access, prepare and market the land for development, but it still owed the government money.

Some of the property was paid for upon receipt, while the U.S. Army allowed RRDA to pay for other parcels over a period of years. It was beholden to a 25-year lease with an option to extend that another 25 years, if needed, to clear the debt.

“The Army had said that there’s was no way we could get it done in the first 25 years, so we got it done in 15 years,” RRDA’s executive director Jerry Acy told Insider. “The economy and investments and the new companies we have brought in” allowed the authority to pay off its debt swiftly.

The authority recently announced a partnership with development firm Hollenbach-Oakley to construct a Class A office and research park on 600 acres at River Ridge.

While the price varied, the authority paid between $1,100 and $1,700 an acre, Acy said. It also got credit towards its debt for various work it completed on the land.

Norman “Ned” Pfau Jr., RRDA’s longest-serving board member, noted the achievement, saying “I’m really proud of what we’ve done. We’ve got a great future. We’ve got a great team.” —Caitlin Bowling