Retail, residential and commercial space eyed for old factory

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Artist rendering
Artist rendering

Spillman Farmer Architects of Bethlehem is looking to create a mixed-use development that would boost economic activity on an abandoned industrial site.

The firm is working on a master plan for Catasauqua in Lehigh County that would determine which part of the former F.L. Smidth property the borough would like to retain for its municipal facilities, said Russell Pacala, a principal with Spillman Farmer. The project, called Iron Works, would include 200 residential units, either apartments or townhouses, and about 29,000 square feet of retail or commercial space, Pacala said.

To anchor the site and attract further development, the borough is looking to create a 38,000 square foot municipal complex that would house its fire station, police station and municipal office, according to a presentation document by the architectural firm.

“The remaining parcel would be subdivided and sold; we’ve indicated retail along Front Street with apartments or townhouses above,” Pacala said.

The 13-acre site of a former factory, between the Pine Street Bridge and Willow Street, abuts the Lehigh Canal and the Delaware and Lehigh River Trail, which Pacala said could be amenities for the project.

“If you look at Catasauqua, it’s so central to the Lehigh Valley,” Pacala said.

Though it’s an urban area, Pacala said the zoning allows for a dense and compact project.

The creation of an economic development zone for abandoned and underused sites in Whitehall, Catasauqua and Coplay could further spur redevelopment of the F.L. Smidth site.

Last year, the Whitehall Catasauqua Coplay City Revitalization and Improvement Zone Committee reviewed the application it submitted to the state for the Pilot Zone designation through the CRIZ Program. The inter-municipal plan would create a zone similar to the Neighborhood Improvement Zone in Allentown. The CRIZ allows certain state and local taxes generated by businesses in the zone to be used to finance construction and development of these projects.

While the CRIZ legislation, or House Bill 1177, earned approval by the Senate, the House of Representatives will not vote on the bill until early August, said Howard Lieberman, executive director for the Whitehall Township Industrial and Commercial Development Authority.

“Three pilot zones would be approved throughout the state,” Lieberman said. “To that extent, the CRIZ is still alive. The F.L. Smidth property was included as the major property in that development.”

Lieberman said the CRIZ committee is working with the borough to establish a Local Economic Revitalization Tax Act designation for that property, which would take real estate taxes and abate them at a pro-rated amount over the next 10 years.

“It’s possible that LERTA could include residential development,” Lieberman said.

The CRIZ and the LERTA are two opportunities that have the most direct impact on attracting developers, Lieberman said.

Lieberman said some loan programs also exist for developers, depending on the plans.

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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