A large project to build retail and commercial space on a 52 acre plot in Bethlehem has been slowed. At issue are two items.
First, the redevelopment would likely require the demolition of the Martin Tower. The current zoning laws in the area prohibit demolition of the building; but the planning commission is considering a change to City ordinances in order to permit the building to be torn down. In so doing, they are taking the opportunity to impose some of their vision for the project on the developer by voting to table the zoning change pending guidance from the developer as to how it proposes to include more residential components to the project.
The second component causing some contention – albeit seemingly less – is that the Martin Tower is a historically significant building in Bethlehem. Built approximately 40 years ago, it was the headquarters for Bethlehem Steel before operations shut down. It is also the tallest building in the Lehigh Valley and on the National Register of Historic Places. Some, as a result, see the building as worth preserving.
The City is playing a major role in the development process because those advocating the project are planning to take advantage of the CRIZ designation. No specific plan for the redevelopment is before the planning commission for consideration, but City officials are pushing for a zoning change before the plan is fully presented. This is presumably so that the developer knows what it can and cannot build.
The next consideration of the zoning change will be in August.