Though the owners of Bethlehem's Martin Tower have demolished the vacant buildings surrounding the 53-acre, long-dormant site, they have not requested a permit to raze the iconic 21-story tower. They also have not submitted a plan to the city for what they would like to build on the site.
The entire property, vacant since 2007, represents an untapped source of economic development in the city, particularly since it offers tax incentives from the City Revitalization and Improvement Zone.
A CRIZ consists of up to 130 acres of parcels designated for economic development and job creation. They include properties that are vacant, desolate, underutilized, abandoned and ready for redevelopment.
Lou Ronca and Norton Herrick, the developers of the property, have not requested any permits to demolish the tower, according to city officials. The developers did not return requests for comment.
“I know the annex buildings have been demolished,” said Robert Donchez, mayor of Bethlehem.
Workers are removing all the asbestos from the inside of the tower. As far as whether or not the tower is coming down, the developers would have to submit a plan for the property to the city, he added.
Though it’s not known exactly what will be built on the property, the city approved a mixed use zoning ordinance for the site several years ago, which would allow retail, office and residential uses.
“I know there will be a housing component with retail,” Donchez said.
However, Donchez admitted retail has changed dramatically over the past 30 years.
“As you head into 2019, retail has just changed dramatically. I think it would be a mixed use.”
It’s unknown how much retail space would encompass the site.
“If the decision is to bring the tower down, there should be a rough outline [of the plan] presented,” Donchez said.
The developers have not submitted any plans yet to the city regarding Martin Tower, said Alicia Miller Karner, director of community and economic development for Bethlehem. The first step for them would be to submit a master plan to the city for the entire district, she added.
“There would have to be some residential, medical office and some retail,” Donchez said. “That’s a very high traffic area. It’s 53 acres of the CRIZ so it’s very important.”
The site is on Eighth Avenue near the intersection with Route 378.