Officials outline what to expect on day of Martin Tower implosion

The meeting was intended for nearby property owners, businesses and other stakeholders and was followed by a second public meeting later that night at Nitschmann Middle School in Bethlehem.

While the 21-story historic fixture will drop to the ground in seconds to make way for a mixed-use development, workers have already gutted the insides.

Once the corporate headquarters of the now defunct Bethlehem Steel Corp., Martin Tower has sat vacant since 2007.

Duane Wagner of HRP Management Inc., representing the property owners and developers, described the building as “steel skin on a structural skeleton … nothing but steel and concrete.

 “Everything else has been removed from the building,” Wagner added. “It started out as a fully functional office building. All the asbestos has been taken out and abated.”

Controlled Demolition Inc., a Maryland-based company, is handling the actual implosion.

The overall implosion sequence should take about 20 seconds from the start of the first explosives in the building to the fall of the structure.

James Santoro of CDI said his firm has demolished about 8,000 structures worldwide and has a long history of demolition.

Workers have already prepared the building by cutting the exterior skin of the structure and made some structural modifications, which will make the building drop once the implosion begins.

Once the implosion of starts, onlookers and people nearby should not feel any vibrations from the ground because the company is essentially imploding the building from the ground up, he said. Each successive layer will land on the layer below and crushes material as gravity pulls the structure down.

The bulk of the debris is expected to fall right near where the tower still stands.

“It’s not going to be a forceful amount of dust,” Santoro said. “The dust is concrete. The hazardous materials have been removed.”

Wagner said his company is working with an independent engineering group to monitor air quality before and after the implosion. He plans to make the results available to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The two factors in choosing implosion over traditional demolition were safety and time, Wagner said.

Traditional demo carries a much higher degree of risk to employees, Wagner said. Furthermore, the demo process takes longer, meaning there is more potential exposure to dust, he added.

Workers, meanwhile, will be able to reuse the concrete generated from the implosion as infill for the redevelopment project at the site, Santoro said.

Over the past 18 months, the site’s owners and developers of the site have demolished smaller vacant buildings on the site and have been removing asbestos from the tower.

On its website, the city posted more information and a map of the area with an exclusion zone, which shows places where the police will not allow the public. You can view it here:

https://www.martintowerbethlehem.com/post/public-informational-meeting-update

The map also shows two county command posts.

The Lehigh County post is on Eighth Avenue at the overpass with Route 378 where the public and the press can watch the implosion. The Northampton County command post is on Eighth Avenue past Eaton Avenue, close to People First Federal Credit Union near the intersection with Richard Avenue. At that spot, police will allow nearby business owners and workers to gather so they can check their buildings after the implosion.

By mid-morning, Bethlehem police expect to open all public routes and lift the exclusion zone.

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. 4108.

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