Bethlehem South Side Business District To Get Major Retail, Office, Student Housing Complex

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Northampton C...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Northampton County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A $56.5 million redevelopment project including significant retail, office and student housing space is planned for Bethlehem’s South Side business district.

Developer Dennis Benner today revealed plans for a 13-story student housing and retail complex on the first block of West Fourth Street and a seven-story office and retail complex a block north at West Third and South New streets.

Construction on the project, which includes a 507-space parking garage, is scheduled to start in the second quarter of next year and take 24 months.

Benner, a Lehigh University graduate, said he’s long heard complaints about how there isn’t enough for college students and young professionals to do in the city and that his complex aims to remedy that. His retail plans include high-end restaurants and lounges, likely including a wine bar, he said.

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Bethlehem Economic Development Zone Would Create $300 Million In New Construction, Officials Say

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Northampton C...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Northampton County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A Pennsylvania City Revitalization and Improvement Zone in Bethlehem would create at least $300 million of new development in the city, officials said today.

Bethlehem’s application for the new state program will consist almost exclusively of private development, including a proposed convention center at the former Bethlehem Steel Corp. site, officials said.

The emphasis on private development should give Bethlehem a distinct advantage over the eight other cities expected to apply for the special economic development tax incentive, the officials said at an announcement this afternoon in Town Hall.

Only two applicants will be granted the incentive in the next couple of months, and many of them will likely have major public projects, which make them riskier and less fruitful for the state, said state Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Northampton/Lehigh/Monroe.

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Bass Pro Shops Angling For Store At Old Bethlehem Steel Plant

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Northampton C...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Northampton County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Outdoors retailer Bass Pro Shops could help jump-start major redevelopment projects, including a possible hotel and convention center, at the former Bethlehem Steel plant.

Developers have been in talks with city officials over the last four or five months about introducing the company’s second store to Pennsylvania near the Sands casino in south Bethlehem, a source familiar with the project said.

Mayor John Callahan acknowledged Bass Pro was one of several retailers that have expressed interest in a site in or near the cavernous No. 2 Machine Shop near Sands’ Luxury Outlets.  He said such a retailer would attract customers from well beyond the Lehigh Valley.

He said he did “a little reconnaissance” at the closest Bass Pro store he could find — near Harrisburg.

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Bethlehen Mayor John Callahan Apologizes To Wrestling Ref Who Ejected Him

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Northampton C...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Northampton County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan apologized Monday to the referee who ejected him from a high school wrestling match over the weekend, a story that media sites across the country picked up.

In an email, Callahan said he should have handled “the incident better no matter how I felt about the calls made during the match” and said he respects that the referee, Dennis Buchman, has “the right to call the match the way he sees it.”

“That said, both Mr. Buchman and I agree that this was a minor incident that has become overblown and unfortunately took away from the great effort and dedication shown by the young men who participated in the tournament,” Callahan said. “I hope that this will no longer distract from the real issues facing Bethlehem and Northampton County.”

Callahan did not return a telephone call seeking a comment.

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Bethlehem City Council Passes $71 Million Budget With 7 Percent Tax Hike

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Northampton C...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Northampton County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a budget where rising pension costs framed the debate, Bethlehem City Council on Thursday adopted a $71 million budget that includes a 7 percent property tax hike and other revenue including a tax on certain concert tickets.

But what it doesn’t include is $500,000 from a citywide trash hauler, a proposal by Mayor John Callahan that drew public backlash.

Instead, council cut hundreds of thousands of dollars from the budget and accepted Callahan’s suggestions on refinancing the landfill debt.  Council also accepted the administration’s updated revenue projections that show the earned income tax and casino fees as bringing in more money than when Callahan first released his budget proposal last month.

Councilman Robert Donchez acknowledged the budget isn’t perfect but a lot of work was put into it.

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Massachusetts Looks To The Lehigh Valley For Inspiration

It’s a river city with quaint Victorian architecture once known for its pioneering manufacturing processes that gave America the industrial might to fight its wars.

But now, it’s re-imagining itself as a “knowledge corridor,” thanks to nearby colleges, and possibly as an entertainment center as gaming companies circle for a place to put a new casino.

That might sound a lot like Bethlehem.

But it’s Springfield, the biggest city in western Massachusetts.

As leaders there begin to dive into the details of reinventing the greater Springfield area, they are looking at Bethlehem as it enters its fourth year hosting a casino and the rest of the Lehigh Valley for advice and inspiration.

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Bethlehem Mayor Announces $56 Million In Development At Former Bethlehem Steel Site

Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan on Wednesday announced $56 million of economic development for two projects at the former Bethlehem Steel plant — two buildings that could be used for warehousing or light assembly.

Lehigh Valley Industrial Park VII is negotiating for a 175,000-square-foot facility along Route 412.

Liberty Property Trust has filed plans for an 800,000-square-foot speculative building, one that would be built without a formal commitment from whoever ends up using it.

While Callahan didn’t have any job estimates on that building, he noted that a 1.2 million-square-foot warehouse under way is expected to bring as many as 500 jobs once a tenant is signed.

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Former Bethlehem Church Eyed As Arts Redevelopment Project

The City of Bethlehem has figured out that the arts can bring economic development.  Many projects have already sprung up in Bethlehem that are having a major impact on the city.  This project is another example of adaptive re-use and the benefits of involving the arts.

The former St. Stanislaus Church in south Bethlehem could provide a little divine inspiration for artists attracted to the growing SteelStacks campus.

The rectory would be razed to make room for 36 affordable apartments targeting artists as tenants under a proposal by Housing Development Corp. MidAtlantic of Lancaster. The church, founded in 1906 to mainly serve Polish Catholics in the neighborhood, would be reused as a gallery and space for performances or other events…

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