PHILADELPHIA (AP) The effort to revitalize Bethlehem Steel’s abandoned headquarters plant got a boost Jan. 12 as Lehigh Valley Industrial Park announced that it will purchase 1,000 acres from International Steel Group, the Cleveland company that scooped up the defunct steelmaker’s assets last year.
Gov. Ed Rendell presented a check for $1.5 million at a ceremony in Bethlehem to announce the sale. The state funds will be used in the development of the Bethlehem Commerce Center, an industrial park that officials predict will eventually create 6,000 jobs and generate $1 billion in private investment.
“This is the most important economic development project the Lehigh Valley has seen in decades,” said state Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Northampton, who participated in the announcement.
Bethlehem Steel declared bankruptcy in 2001 and officially ceased to exist on Dec. 31. Officials have been trying to redevelop the entire 1,800-acre Bethlehem Steel site, believed to be the largest privately owned brownfield in the United States. The parcel represents approximately 15 percent of the land mass of the city of Bethlehem.
Lehigh Valley Industrial Park, a nonprofit group that runs six industrial parks in Lehigh and Northampton counties, said it will acquire the Bethlehem Steel property from ISG in late February for $4 million.
Kerry Wrobel, LVIP president, said the group will play the role of “master developer,” building roads and utilities, remediating environmental contamination and finally selling parcels of land to manufacturers, high-tech and financial services companies and other businesses. Wrobel said LVIP is negotiating with three or four companies, although there are no buyers as of yet.
ISG also is negotiating with Majestic Realty of Los Angeles to buy 550 acres of Bethlehem Steel land for yet another industrial park.
Some development projects on former Bethlehem Steel land have already been completed, including Conectiv Energy’s $600-million generating station and a Flyers Skate Zone ice rink, which opened last December. The ice rink is part of Bethlehem Works, a long-delayed development that envisions shops, movie theaters, office space and a Smithsonian-affiliated National Museum of Industrial History on the site.
Delaware Valley Real Estate Investment Fund, the pension fund of the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council, agreed a few years ago to buy the bulk of the Bethlehem Works land, approximately 50 mi. north of Philadelphia, but has yet to consummate the sale.
However, Patrick Gillespie, business manager of the building trades union, said that he expects the deal to close within the next several weeks.
“We’re not cavalier about what we do. Maybe we’re too cautious, but I’d much rather be too cautious than pull the trigger too soon,” Gillespie said.