Bethlehem Steel Agreement Heralds New Age for Historic Lackawanna Site

In Historical

On July 25, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz was joined by representatives from the Erie County Industrial Development Agency (“ECIDA”), the Empire State Development Corporation (“ESD”), the City of Lackawanna, and Tecumseh Redevelopment Inc. along with numerous other officials and agencies to announce Erie County’s acquisition of 148 acres of industrial land at the former Bethlehem Steel site in Lackawanna. The $5.5 million agreement, which closed this morning, transfers ownership of the parcel from Tecumseh to the ECIDA and is a critical part of the redevelopment of the historic site, which will include the relocation of on-site rail tracks, construction of a public road at Dona St. to open the land for redevelopment, installation of electric and water utilities, and much more.

“Today’s announcement is the culmination of years of work and shared vision on the part of many people, all of whom realized the significance of this long-dormant site and knew it could once again be a place of business. Signs of new economic life are already evident here and we are now moving to further transform the property, making it more accessible from Rte. 5 while making its unique rail assets more efficient,” said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. “Generations of local steelworkers once toiled on this site, building America with the sweat of their brows and ensuring that ‘Lackawanna’ was known worldwide. The smokestacks and blast furnaces of yesterday are gone now but the new business technologies and processes of today are ready to replace them as this site continues its return to productivity and economic vitality.”

Rail relocation and construction of the Dona St. extension are key components of the redevelopment of the site. In 2013, Erie County and the ECIDA completed Phase 1 of the Rail Relocation Project at the site, which entailed the installation of approximately 2 miles of rail track in the north-south direction on the site while removing rail tracks that had hindered access to the site. Phase 1 opened up approximately 300 acres of development-ready land. Now, Phase II of the Rail Relocation Project will remove approximately 13,000 line feet of rail track along Rte. 5, which will clear the way to create a new Dona St. extension into the parcel. Phase II will also include rehabilitation and enhancements to rail tracks elsewhere on site to make rail operations more efficient. Upon completion of the Rail Project, work will commence on the new public road and will include sewer construction, storm water systems, street lighting, and sidewalks.

ECIDA President and CEO Steve Weathers added, “As a mission-driven organization, the ECIDA prioritizes economic growth, and creating a manufacturing commerce park on what is now an unused parcel of land is the very definition of the right kind of economic growth. We worked very closely with the County Executive and Tecumseh, the New York State Department of Transportation and the State of New York  to complete this complex acquisition through our land development affiliate, the Industrial Land Development Corporation. It was due to the County Executive’s clear vision and our Board of Directors recognizing the long term positive benefits this project will have on our entire region that this deal, which was years in the making, is finally signed on the dotted line.”

“In 2003, ArcelorMittal USA assumed responsibility of the Lackawanna property via the purchase of all Bethlehem Steel assets. Now 14 years later, we celebrate the culmination of our investment of approximately $20 million to clean up the site as we transfer ownership and associated opportunities to the Buffalo & Erie County Industrial Land Development Corporation to shepherd the redevelopment of approximately 150 acres of the site,” said Paul Werthman of ArcelorMittal USA, parent company of Tecumseh Redevelopment, Inc.

The redevelopment of the Bethlehem steel site was identified by County Executive Poloncarz in his Initiatives for a Smart Economy as a top priority for Erie County as well as the City of Lackawanna. Its close proximity to major local roads and the interstate Thruway as well as to rail and shipping traffic at the Port of Buffalo make it a unique site in the Northeast and ideal for revitalization. The site’s redevelopment also aligns Erie County efforts with the economic development strategies of the WNY Regional Economic Development Council.

“The Bethlehem Steel site is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to move Governor Cuomo’s plan for Western New York’s resurgence forward,” said Howard Zemsky, President, CEO & Commissioner of Empire State Development. “ESD’s smart growth strategy builds on the region’s unique assets and this Buffalo Billion investment will help transform this massive lakefront property into an industrial park that will bring well-paying jobs to the region.”

“Today many partners in this effort came together to announce that some of the land at the former Bethlehem Steel site has been acquired by Erie County with the support of New York State, ECIDA/ILDC and Empire State Development. This is hopefully the first major step in seeing new life on this property that was once one of the most vital companies in our region’s history,” said Erie County Legislator Lynne Dixon.

In addition, the property’s ongoing redevelopment prioritizes the continuation of the Shoreline Trail along Route 5 along with the design and construction of a Net Zero Energy (“NZE”) manufacturing building, which will rise on the site of today’s  announcement. The building will feature over 80,000 feet of mixed-use manufacturing and commercial office space and will be powered by solar, geothermal and wind energy to produce as much energy as it consumes on an annual basis. NZEs are the future of manufacturing and this building will place Erie County at the forefront of a growing movement, with a strategically-placed demonstration facility showcasing advances in renewable-energy construction. Public access to the site will also be enhanced through the continuation of the Shoreline Trail project, which will eventually connect Buffalo’s Outer Harbor to Woodlawn Beach State Park in the Town of Hamburg. The existing Niagara Greenway Shoreline Trail will be extended approximately 7,000 feet from the Buffalo/Lackawanna municipal line to the Dona Street extension, which will provide safe pedestrian and bicycle access to Lackawanna and Buffalo residents to amenities on the Outer Harbor. Future phases will connect the Shoreline Trail to Woodlawn Beach.

“The closing of Bethlehem Steel dealt a heavy blow to Lackawanna, and for years we have been recovering from that loss and working to move forward. Now we are at the point where new business, new life and new energy are returning to the site where so many thousands of residents worked in the past,” said City of Lackawanna Mayor Geoffrey Szymanski. “This is an incredible transformation happening right before our eyes, and I want to thank our partners at the county, the state, and every level for working with us to make today possible.”

Clearing work at the site has already begun, with bids for the rail relocation, Dona Street construction, and Trail Project work expected to go out soon and the work to be completed in 2018. The NZE building is also targeted for completion in the fourth quarter of 2018.

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