A GRASSROOTS EFFORT TO PRESERVE BETHLEHEM'S PAST WHILE ENSURING ITS ECONOMIC FUTURE
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“Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.”
— Japanese proverb


Why Should We Save Our Steel?

There are many reasons why it makes sense to support creation of a historic industrial district on the former Bethlehem Steel property through the rehabilitation and interpretation of the historic structures:

  • A mixed-use redevelopment including historical interpretation, commercial and residential development, and institutions of education and the arts housed in the rehabilitated factory buildings will make Bethlehem the greatest small city in the region and help reinvent Pennsylvania as one of the most progressive, exciting states in the nation.
  • Rehabilitating the site according to a comprehensive plan of historic interpretation will create a regional anchor for heritage tourism, drawing millions of visitors to the Lehigh Valley. These people will bring their money from other regions and spend it in our shops, restaurants, and hotels.
  • Rehabilitating historic structures, as compared to new construction, shifts a majority of investment from materials to labor. 4 additional construction jobs are created for every $1 million invested, so for a $200 million rehabilitation project, 800 extra jobs would be created. This has an added "trickle-down" effect because local families will in turn spend this money in local businesses. Click here for a summary table of the economic benefits of historic preservation.
  • Public to private investment ratio for historic preservation averages 1:20. This means that for every $1 investment of our tax dollars, $20 of private spending will occur in the form of additional property improvements in the local area.
  • Over 1200 acres of the Bethlehem site are already under regular commercial development, so we can easily afford to take some additional time to develop the last 120 acres in a sensible manner.
  • Since redevelopment of the site will most likely involve considerable public concessions (such as tax abatements or pollution cleanup forgiveness), shouldn’t local citizens help decide what we get in return?
  • Governor Rendell has embarked on a "Smart Growth" initiative that considers tourism, economic development, and historic preservation as top priorities to improve Pennsylvania’s quality of life. The rehabilitation and interpretation of the site all three of these benefits in one package.
  • The Bethlehem Steel plant produced all 16" naval guns, 40% of all artillery shells, a majority of the armor plate, and countless aircraft and submarine parts that were critical to the Allies’ victories in both WWI and WWII. The importance of this site to the world’s freedom in the 20th century is incalculable.
  • Studies show that when historic preservation tax credits and the savings of demolition costs are accounted for, rehabilitating historic buildings costs an average of 4% LESS than new construction.
  • Bethlehem’s identity is defined by the heavy industry that built our skyscrapers and won 2 world wars. Rehabilitating the historic buildings allows us to market our most valuable resource and differentiate ourselves from the big-box mediocrity of many other cities.
  • Historic district properties’ market value consistently increases at a higher rate than all other real estate.
  • A big-box shopping center with a blast furnace behind it simply cannot compete with the economic and cultural benefits of the nationally significant heritage tourism destination that could be created.
  • The wide flange continuously rolled steel beam that enabled construction of famous structures such as the Chrysler Building, United Nations Headquarters, Madison Square Garden, and the Golden Gate, George Washington and Verrazano Narrows bridges was invented here in these very buildings.
  • In 1900, Frederick W. Taylor (Superintendent of Bethlehem Steel’s No. 2 machine shop) developed his "Principles of Scientific Management" which provided the basis of modern business administration practices which are still in use in companies throughout the world.
  • If the Bethlehem Steel structures are demolished, the contributions The Steel made to the history of the nation and the world will be erased from memory. 2-3 generations from now children will not even know The Steel existed.

Photograph of the West End as viewed from the Pennsylvania Route 378 Lehigh River Bridge © James E. Frizzell, April 18, 2001 used by permission.
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