Catasauqua’s long-awaited redevelopment of the Iron Works site moved a step closer to reality Monday with the announcement of a $1.5 million state grant awarded to the project.
Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement that the grant, supported through the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, would turn the abandoned site into a new opportunity for attracting businesses and residents while boosting the local economy. The grant would fund improvements to the site, such as the demolition of old, obsolete industrial buildings and the installation of infrastructure, such as roads, street lighting and water, sewer, storm water, electric and gas systems.
The project began with the borough’s acquisition of the site in 2013. After building a new municipal complex on part of the site, the borough sent out a request for proposals to attract a developer for the remaining 10.6 acres so it can collaborate with the private sector.
Vince Smith, borough council president, said the borough has a letter of intent from Dunn Twiggar Co., a real estate firm in Hanover Township, Northampton County, and is negotiating an agreement of sale.
“They will buy the land and complete the improvements,” Smith said.
It was once the site of a former factory between the Pine Street Bridge and Willow Street and abuts the Lehigh Canal and the Delaware & Lehigh River Trail.
Overall, the grant funds would help move the project toward a start date, Smith said.
“We know that will help us complete the agreement of sale, which will get us closer to settlement,” he said. “This brings us one step closer to the development stage we’ve been working toward. I am looking at a sustainable project. I want something that’s going to help us bring in ratables.”
The project could include an open-air plaza, a mix of apartments and townhouses and about 32,000 square feet of retail and office space. The retail could include boutique shops and restaurants.
The borough also contracted with Taggart Associates, a Bethlehem consulting firm, to help find grants for the project.
“What we had applied for was infrastructure improvements that would be essential for laying the groundwork for the site,” said Chad Helmer, senior project manager with Taggart Associates. “It’s gotten pretty challenging to get funds of any type; it’s very challenging.”
Many other municipalities also seek grants, he added.
Helmer said the grant funding shows the merit of the project and its effect on the community, adding that the firm was appreciative of the state’s willingness to grant the award.