Martin Tower taken off protection list to aid redevelopment

By - Last modified: April 3, 2013 at 11:07 AM

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File photo of Martin Tower by Steve Williams
File photo of Martin Tower by Steve Williams

Plans for future development of the once-prosperous Martin Tower in Bethlehem could bear fruit now that the city removed the property from a demolition protection list.

Councilman Mike Recchiuti said the council's decision to take the property off the list at the request of the owners last night will encourage redevelopment of the 23-story tower.

"They thought it would be a barrier to redevelopment," said Recchiuti. "I think they're worried that if market conditions stay down, this could be a barrier to redevelopment down the road. Their plan is to redevelop the tower."

Several years ago, Recchiuti said developer Lewis Ronca and his partner, Norton Herrick, applied for an application to get the property designated as a historic site, which gained approval. The owners will get tax credits, but only if they redevelop the tower, said Recchiuti. Also, council approved a zoning overlay district for the property several years ago, which allowed for some residential development, said Recchiuti.

These are favorable zoning conditions but are predicated on the fact that the tower remains intact, said Recchiuti.

"I'd like to see some development going in there," said Recchiuti. "A mixed use upon the parcel would be best."

Ronca and Herrick created a proposal for the redevelopment of the property that included a tax increment financing plan that was ultimately rejected by the Bethlehem Area School District in 2011.

The office building and the property surrounding it has been vacant since February 2007. The tower covers 7.6 acres on Eighth Avenue and the surrounding area on Schoenersville Road, comprised of several buildings, covers 44-acres.

Mayor John Callahan previously said the best use of the site would be to create a mixed use development that would be primarily residential, but include office space and commercial operations.

Multiple attempts to reach Ronca and Herrick for comment were unsuccessful.

Brian Pedersen

Brian Pedersen

Reporter Brian Pedersen covers construction, development, warehousing and real estate and keeps you up to date on the changing landscape of our community. He can be reached at brianp@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 108. Follow him on Twitter @BrianLehigh and read his blog, “Can You Dig It,” at http://www.lvb.com/section/can-you-dig-it. Brian also has a strong interest in health and fitness. He works part-time as a personal trainer at Steel Fitness Riverport in Bethlehem and earned his personal fitness trainer certification from World Instructor Training Schools.

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