The Brownfield Approach: Federal, state, and local agencies coordinated to provide liability relief and site-wide assessment, minimizing development uncertainty and fast-tracking reuse.
From the mid-1800s, Lehigh Valley was home base for Bethlehem Steel, one of the largest shipbuilding and steel manufacturing companies in the world. During its heyday, it was the most powerful symbol of American industrial manufacturing leadership, building the Golden Gate Bridge, NYC skyscrapers, and many symbols of American industry. Bethlehem Steel’s demise is often cited as one of the most prominent examples of the U.S. economy’s shift away from industrial manufacturing.
The site is now a national model for coordination between federal, state, and local agencies. This collaboration led to federal and state liability relief for new developers, and site-wide environmental investigation and assessment that led to an overall soil and groundwater management plan, minimizing development uncertainty.
The site is divided into two sections: BethWorks will contain retail, office space, and a Museum of American Industrial History. Currently, BethWorks has developed an arts and entertainment district called SteelStacks with a contemporary performing arts center, called the ArtsQuest Center, an outdoor music venue with a stunning backdrop of the preserved historic blast furnaces, and the Sands Casino Resort. Tax increment financing from the casino has provided much of the funding for the restoration of open space and historical areas.
The second section of the site, the Bethlehem Commerce Center, takes advantage of the location’s proximity to rail and highways to entice warehousing and distribution business. 500 acres were purchased in 2007 by Majestic Realty for a new warehouse that will generate thousands of new family-supporting jobs. In addition, Crayola, the maker of world-famous crayons, consolidated their current warehouses and opened a new distribution center in spring 2013. Majestic cited the coordination of state and federal regulations, and support from the local community, as the biggest reasons they invested in the Bethlehem Steel site.