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Bethlehem Steel re-developer granted tax incentive extension

By Kevin Lechiski, WFMZ.com Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Dec 07 2012 05:23:47 AM CST
EASTON, Pa. -

Northampton County Council on Thursday night gave the fifth and final approval needed for the re-developer of a 441-acre section of the former Bethlehem Steel property along the Bethlehem-Lower Saucon Township border to receive an extension on a tax incentive program aimed at spurring interest in the site.

County Council voted unanimously to extend until 2017 a recently-expired tax incentive to Majestic Realty Co., in which the new property tax assessments on improved buildings are gradually phased in over a 10-year period.

County Council’s okay was the final approval needed for the entire site to be eligible for incentives under the state Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance Act (LERTA).

The re-developer had already gained needed approvals from the other governmental bodies collecting property taxes on the site -- the City of Bethlehem, Lower Saucon Township and the school districts of Bethlehem and Saucon Valley.

Majestic Realty is looking to ultimately redevelop around 7 million square feet of space in eight buildings into an inter-modal business park. Just completed is the first phase, an 800,000-square-foot Crayola distribution center.

County Council President John Cusick applauded the effort to redevelop the Brownfield property. “I think this is the type of property where we should be targeting development,” he said.

During a recent Lower Saucon Township Council meeting, Joe Kelly, Bethlehem’s Director of Community and Economic Development, told local officials that LERTA provides an excellent incentive to revitalize post-industrial sites, without municipalities and school districts being asked to forfeit the existing property taxes, as is often the case under other state-permitted redevelopment programs.

“LERTA is the most fiscally responsible tool to redevelop underutilized properties and expand a community’s industrial tax base,” Kelly said.