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Thread: Bethlehem PA - Largest Private Brownfield Redevelopment in US

  1. #1
    Here are some photos of existing conditions and proposed redevelopment for the former Bethlehem Steel lands in South Bethlehem in eastern PA. This is the largest privately-owned brownfields redevelopment site in the US.

    The western portion, nearest Center City Bethlehem, is being redeveloped with a mix of condos, retail, cultural facilities, a branch college campus, parking structures and a new ice skating rink. A slot machine casino is currently being proposed, which would allow many of the old buildings to be preserved. A National Museum of Industrial History is planned, in cooperation with the Smithsonian, who have agreed to lend artifacts. Among the artifacts on-site is a gun that fired a 14 inch diameter shell. That gun was manufactured in Bethlehem in 1915 and was used on a battleship (I believe the USS Mississippi.)

    The eastern 1,500 acres, closest to I-78, is being actively redeveloped into a modern industrial park, with a huge Norfolk Southern intermodal facility.

    I will add more current photos in the future. These are mainly historic photos.

    Old Bethlehem Passenger Train Station before historic rehab into medical offices:

    Modern photo of blast furnances:

    Recent aerial photo. Lehigh University is along the bottom left of the photo, on South Mountain :

    Photos (most taken about 10 years ago) as part of Historic Architectural Buildings Survey:

    Recent photo of blast furnaces along the Lehigh River:

    Recent photo of modern business incubator development on former Steel land:

    Old postcard of former Steel Headquarters, now being turned into a branch campus of a college:

    Inside the incredibly long machine shop - proposed for retail if a slots casino is approved.

    HAER Photos:

    Iron Foundry Building:

    Blast furnaces would be preserved as part of slots proposal:

    Brand new office and retail development across the street from Beth. Steel:

    New entrance road into older part of Bethlehem Steel complex, with decorative street lights and steel items used as decorations:

    Ore crane, looks like a bridge:

    Old rail line being turned into recreation path, parallel to Bethlehem Steel:

    Restored storefronts down the street from Beth Steel:

    Steel artifacts used as streetscape decorations:
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails B s bessemer foundry bec market house.jpg   B st performing arts arena.jpg  

    beth steel ironfoundry.jpg  
    Last edited by NHPlanner; 14 Oct 2005 at 5:30 PM.

  2. #2
    Very interesting. I've driven past that site numerous times commuting between Souderton to E. Stroudsburg, and had a friend at LU (before he flunked out with a 0.00 GPA). It is certainly important to Bethlehem's redevelopment and the plan seems exciting. How's the community response been?
    Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.
    Abraham Lincoln

  3. #3

    Response to Redevelopment

    In answer to your question, there is a great deal of excitement about the many development projects occurring in Bethlehem. Many of the projects have been completed by one developer - Ashley Development. However, the community is split about whether to allow slot machine gambling on part of the old Bethlehem Steel site. Sands Casino has offered to provide binding commitments that they will preserve the blast furnaces and many old steel buildings.

    On the western edge of the Bethlehem Steel complex, the old Johnson Machinery complex is now being turned into 196 condos plus the largest restaurant in the Lehigh Valley. Construction is about half-done. The old roof is being maintained to result in roofed courtyards. Part of the building is being used for an inside parking structure. The exterior of the building is being maintained, using Federal tax credits. They are effectively building a "new building inside an old building."

    Much of the redevelopment is spurred by people moving into Bethlehem from Northern New Jersey and New York City. The downtown is booming, and a big factory is being converted into upscale apartments north of Center City. Bethlehem also greatly increased their tourism by attracting people into the Downtown for the 9 day Musikfest musical festival each year. The organization that runs that festival is planned to build a glass enclosed concert arena next to the blast furnaces. That organization also runs a large arts incubator named the Banana Factory, west of Bethlehem Steel.

    Tens of millions of dollars have been provided by the Federal, State and County governments for the redevelopment of the Bethlehem Steel lands and to widen the main road from I-78. A non-profit, Lehigh Valley Industrial Park, is redeveloping much of the eastern end.

    There also are some plans to reuse the 21 story Bethlehem Steel headquarters on the north side of town. More about that later.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian abrowne's avatar
    Jan 2005

    Most painful obstacle for a drunk. Ever.

  5. #5

    More Info on Redevelopment

    The bulk of the oldest part of the Bethlehem Steel property (the western portion) is now owned by a group that includes the owners of Newmark realty of New York City. Last night, a representative of that company made a presentation in Bethlehem. He said the company owns over 9 million square feet of building space, most in New York City, and that they specialize in buying, renovating and leasing historic buildings.

    He stressed that they are interested in the long-term, and intend to retain ownership of the complex. They want Bethlehem Steel to be a model for brownfields redevelopment throughout the country, which will encourage people to bring their company into other endeavors. They control 125 acres.

    The Sands company would reuse one old steel building for a casino, next to the ore bridge (pictured above). A portion of the largest building is proposed to be used for the National Museum of Industrial History (www.nmih.org). He said they intend to renovate buildings to create 600 to 800 apartments. He said that the quality retailers will only come to the site if they know that Sands will build their casino there. The goal is to create "experiential retail". He said that the grid pattern of streets will be reopened into the complex, to encourage interaction. This will help to support existing retailers on the adjacent streets.

    He said they are contributing land next to the blast furnaces for the ArtsQuest organization to build a 2,700 seat indoor arena. ArtsQuest is a local non-profit that runs the large Musikfest festival and the large nearby Banana Factory arts incubator. He said they are also providing space for a live studio for "PBS" (which I believe meant the local PBS TV station). Many of the buildings are also intended to be rehabilitated using Federal historic preservation tax credits, which will require careful renovation of the exteriors.

    This area of Bethlehem Steel actually dates back to its predecessor, the old Bethlehem Iron Company of the mid-1800s.

    He said 23 of the 33 existing buildings will be retained. This compares to the old Homestead steel complex outside of Pittsburgh. That complex was infamous for the Homestead strike of the late 1800s. When that site was redeveloped, everything was leveled except for a set of smokestacks. A modern mall was built on the site, which is called the Waterfront.

    The eastern end of the site has much less architectural and historic interest. Most were simply very large shell buildings that have been demolished. In those easter areas, new industrial buildings and distribution centers are being built in an industrial park setting.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
    Dec 2003
    Heaven or Las Vegas
    Are they allowing access to any of the site yet? When I snuck in along the tracks several years ago, I wasn't in for 5 minutes when a guard caught me and escorted me out.

    I like a lot of those HAER photos. I wonder if they sell large prints. I think they'd make cool artwork for my house.

    ab, I think the tine-up steel rake is still the most painful obstacle for a drunk. I wonder who desigened the bases for those old gears? The concept is cool, but the execution is really weak. Sloppy spots of concrete on asphalt...couldn't they do better?
    Adrift in a sea of beige

  7. #7

    Access to the Site

    You can drive almost right up to the sides of the blast furnaces. There is a new public street that was constructed into the site. That street also takes you past the oldest buildings in the complex and the recently built indoor ice rink. The old office buildings are right along the street and are easily visible. The main former headquarters looks like a 1905 Richardson building.

    The bulk of the site is surrounded by chain link fencing. You can see many buildings from 3rd street, which is the parallel street.

    There are periodic tours given with buses that drive into the western part of the site. They drive the bus inside the largest building - the number 2 machine shop. That building is probably about 600 feet long. You also can view the site from several bridges, such as by walking across the Minsi Trail bridge, which connects 3rd St. with Stefko Blvd. There also are some interesting tall buildings where 3rd and 4th Streets meet.

    In the 1960s, an entire neighborhood was leveled to build a large structure for steel (I think an oxygen furnace). It was a tall bulky black building with no windows. Houses and churches were condemned and streets were removed. Then, in the early 1990s, that building was demolished. Most of the remaining buildings on the eastern end are not interesting and not very visible.

    The huge ugly belchinig coke works that was close to I-78 was completely demolished.

  8. #8

    More Photos of Beth Steel - Proposed Bethworks Redevelopment

    The following photos were taken during on trolley tour of the older part of the former Bethlehem Steel site in Bethlehem. These photos are in the public domain - you are welcome to reuse them or post them elsewhere. The new slots casino is proposed next to the big ore bridge, which will be preserved. The plans are to repaint and add decorative lighting to the blast furnaces. Some of the old offices are becoming a college. A hotel and shops are planned.

    The lighting was not good for some of the shots - it was overcast and dark inside some of the buildings. The no. 2 machine shop is about a 1/4 mile long. The whole manufacturing complex stretched for 7 miles. Bethlehem Steel also owned 3 local golf courses, 3 company fire stations with their own firefighters and trucks, and an armed private police force. During the 1950s, the President of Bethlehem Steel used to arrive to work everyday with a City police motorcycle escort.

    The Bethlehem Steel plant produced the steel for U.S. battleships built during WWI and WWII, the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels in NYC, the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, the George Washington Bridge, the locks of the Panama Canal, the reconstruction of the White House during the Truman years, and the construction for newer Bethlehem Steel plants. A major disappointment was when the contract for the steel for the World Trade Center in NYC went to the Japanese - the plant had been counting on getting that contract. Bethlehem Steel in Bethlehem employed over 20,000 people in the 1950s and over 12,000 people in the 1970s.

    Last edited by Charliesch; 31 Oct 2005 at 5:44 PM.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker
    Very interesting. I've driven past that site numerous times commuting between Souderton to E. Stroudsburg, and had a friend at LU (before he flunked out with a 0.00 GPA). It is certainly important to Bethlehem's redevelopment and the plan seems exciting. How's the community response been?
    As a person who grew up in Bethlehem, I can tell you that its very disheartening. Some people are (for obvious reasons) excited about the much needed inflow of money and commerce that such a development would bring. But, we also have to consider what a large gaming enterprise would do to a historical downtown area that is at the present time somewhat residential with a University only a few blocks away. Many news articles cite that town citizens are "opposed to gaming" - and I'm sure there are some. But the majority of those who oppose, such as myself, seem to be fine with gaming as a practice....but let's leave it to Las Vegas or Atlantic City. It is hard enough to maintain the country/suburban feel with the huge influx of commuter real estate that has been developed as of late, let alone a casino. The city much appreciates the income is coincident with such development - but it will undoubtedly change some aspects to the town for which its residents love it in the first place. I am in New York now and would hate to come "home" to Mohegan Sun for the holidays.

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