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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Ronca's Martin Tower Timeline Shows Demolition in 2016

In order to get an extension on an $8 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant from the state, developer Lew Ronca has been required to provide a timeline about what he expects to happen at the 53 acre site. Much of this is contained in Part 11 of the information provided by the City.

He already expected at this time to have City Council approval of a new Office Mixed Use Zoning Ordinance at the site, with which he has been intimately involved.

Once the ordinance is adopted, he plans immediately to begin engineering a master plan for the site.

In February 2016, he expects to see a Master Plan approved by the Planning Commission. It will include the demolition of Martin Tower, which will be replaced by a commercial building. Asbestos remediation will cost $5.1 million, demolition will cost $1.75 million and another $1.5 million will be spent to prepare the site for a new building. He will spend $2.375 million to prepare for a 30,000 sq ft mixed use commercial building. He will have to front the money, but will be reimbursed by the state, except for the new building. So at this point, he will have spent nothing.

The building will cost $4.1 million.

After approval of the Master Plan, he will submit a specific plan to demolish Martin Tower, and expects to have that approved by April. After that, he will seek bids for demolition, and will begin work on that in October 2016.

What else is planned? Ronca sidekick Duane Wagner discussed a possible Sheetz gas station, which could provide between $218,500 per year in tax money to fund construction costs.

I should complete my review by week's end.

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

With the Bethlehem DCED giving him its special treatment, he should do fine.

Anonymous said...

you don't need a sheets. there is a wawa right down the road and a shell not far after that. This is building just to build.

Anonymous said...

Please don't say one brick at a time but seriously how does an enormous building like this be demolished? Perhaps an engineer will explain.

Anonymous said...

My guess is demolition by way of explosive charges, then large front end loaders to clean up the rubble.

Or move all of the refugees in and wait for them to destroy it.

Maggie Mae Mason said...

I must disagree with you 4:18AM. Karner has done herself in by her own hand. She is now so tainted that she will be totally unbelievable in the future. Donchez's best move is to remove her and try to regain some measure of respect and integrity in city hall.

The apparently inept gang of the mayor, dced and council have unwittingly given the merchants and citizens the upper hand in this calamity. The issue of Martin Tower is too large and too emotional for the do not vote citizens and downtown merchants to ignore. Fortunately the bungling bozos of city hall have bluffed with a weak hand. It is now time for the merchants and citizens to call their bluff and win the game.

But this is just the first battle. To win the war the citizens and merchants must continue to be aware of the continued back door operations of this administration and council. They must make the so called leaders demonstrate their honesty, integrity and willingness to do what is best and right and actually legal for the city. You can be assure that elected officials will not do this on their own.

The only way council and the mayor can even expect some measure of respect is for them to admit the error of their ways, return the contributions of those who would buy our city and to openly apologize for their underhanded foolishness.

I, for one will not hold my breath waiting for that moment. However, I do hope that the citizens and merchants will band together to force the issue. It's you against back door pols.

Anonymous said...

With the Bethlehem DCED giving him its special treatment, he should do fine. They will make enough money tearing down the tower to build all on our dime. Not a penny will come out of their pockets

Anonymous said...

bring in the feds

Anonymous said...

There is a Sheetz right across the street from a WaWa further north on Schoenersville Rd. Those two will be shadowing each other all over the valley. There probably be a Walgreen's at the Martin Tower site to compete with the CVS right across the street.

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that the Governor has a great amount of control over the RCAP grant that was offered for the Martin Tower site. The grant was approved for the rehabilitation of the building. I do not believe the Governor has any obligation to approve the conversion of that grant into a demolition grant. I believe the Governor would seriously question spending such a large amount of state tax money for this project, particularly if there is not evidence of a major employer resulting from the demolition. A Sheetz would not count.

The state grant is actually part of a bond issue, so it will cost state taxpayers much more in the long run.

Anonymous said...

Whats with the big gap between posts maggie Mae?

Anonymous said...

An engineer I know and who is familiar with the style of construction for the tower told me that "when they ever decide to get rid of it, they'll need to take it apart, top to bottom". I took that to mean that the building was well built and the steel company spared no expense in making something that would withstand time, weather, disaster, etc.

If true, that will add to the cost.

What is also obvious is that Ronca never had a plan. He is content to "hold" the property and allow it it degrade until he gets what he wants.


VOR

Anonymous said...

Martin Towers is an economic white elephant. The costs to remediate the asbestos and bring it to current building codes is far too high.

Maggie Mae Mason said...

8:23,
I have no idea

Anonymous said...

It is possible that a group of Bethlehem citizens could get together and convince the Governor that the multi-million dollar State grant should instead be spent on another project that would have greater benefit to the public than the demolition of Martin Tower. For example, it could be used towards the rehab of some of the remaining old Bethlehem Steel industrial buildings.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I have deleted a comment from Maggie Mae Mason with a huge gap at the end. That is a comment killer. I hat when that happens and automatically delete those comments.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"It is possible that a group of Bethlehem citizens could get together and convince the Governor that the multi-million dollar State grant should instead be spent on another project that would have greater benefit to the public than the demolition of Martin Tower. For example, it could be used towards the rehab of some of the remaining old Bethlehem Steel industrial buildings. "


This is law. The Governor cannot wave a magic wand and change it. The law should be repealed. But this legislature can't even agree om a budget.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Martin Towers is an economic white elephant. The costs to remediate the asbestos and bring it to current building codes is far too high. "

We do not really know that. All we have is information provided by the developer, who wants to spend $8 MM in tax money to knock it down.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Whats with the big gap between posts maggie Mae? "

I just deleted that comment.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"My understanding is that the Governor has a great amount of control over the RCAP grant that was offered for the Martin Tower site. The grant was approved for the rehabilitation of the building."

Typically, the state does not like to spend RACP grant money to demolish buildings.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

What is this world coming to when bottom feeding bloggers are doing the best journalism out there? :)

Anonymous said...

The Governor has in the past moved money from one project on the RCAP grant list to another project on the RCAP list, particularly if a project is not moving forward as was originally approved. Being on the list simply makes you eligible for possible funding. However, I don't believe the Legislature needs to approve shifting previously approved dollars from one approved project to another eligible project on the list.

For example, I believe the Governor could move that $8 million from the rehab of Martin Tower to the construction of a new nursing and science building for Moravian College, which is on the list but is not funded.

Anonymous said...

"What is this world coming to when bottom feeding bloggers are doing the best journalism out there? :)"

Not really. He is protecting his favorites so this is more editorial commentary, much like Fox News, than real journalism.

Anonymous said...

I believe that this project would not have been eligible for an RACP grant if the application was made POST CRIZ designation. However this project was granted the award prior to and is now grandfathered. Nice double dip i'm sure it was just a coincidence.

Anonymous said...

Let's demolish the building, rather than spend the grandkids' money on another handout to a filthy rich developer.

Anonymous said...

CRIZ and NIZ cannot be used in combination with KOZ. However, I haven't heard of a restriction against using RCAP with CRIZ.

Anonymous said...

It was my understanding that the asbestos wasn't a problem as long as it was not disturbed. Also the major reason this building was never occupied after Bethlehem Steel was it did not have a fire suppressant sprinkler system installed. Apparently a sprinkler system was not required when the tower was built in the early 1970's. The installation of a sprinkler system would cost about $5M. That is not very much when compared to what you outlined to demolish the tower.

Anonymous said...

Karner was appointed this position and coached from day one on how to handle the Martin Tower project. She was put in the position to do what she is told by the big boys in the County. Bernie ask her who she plays cards with every Friday night. You will be shocked at the names from the County. I said this once before Donchez didn't know who she was when he appointed her. He had to listen to the people that fed him the money. Karner must go now and we can vote Donchez out in the next election. Maybe Bethlehem will be the next FBI search and he will be gone before that time.

Bernie O'Hare said...

We are all aware of what increAsingly appears to be an irrational hatred, prompted perhaps by jealousy. Do you have anything of substance to say? If not, go to LVL.

Anonymous said...

6. INELIGIBLE PROJECTS
Projects located in a City Revitalization and Improvement Zone (CRIZ) and eligible for CRIZ benefits are not eligible RACP projects. However, approved RACP grants that existed prior to zone approval shall not be restricted.

Projects that are generally funded through other state programs are not eligible for Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program funds. Examples of those funding sources and projects are as follows:

http://www.budget.pa.gov/Programs/RACP/Program-Guidelines/Pages/default.aspx#.VlYsatKrTs1

Bernie O'Hare said...

Holy shit!

Anonymous said...

^Excellent Work! I was wondering myself it there was a conflict between CRIZ and RACP. Thanks for finding this!

Robinator57 said...

It won't be imploded. Rather it would be dismantled.

Ovem Lupo Commitere said...

I hope that you had a pleasant Thanksgiving, Bernie. LVR is something many of us are thankful for. You provide an alternative, and often more in depth, look at local news than we would otherwise find solely from the local papers.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Thanks very much, Ovem. Your kind words are appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Rip the building down and start over!! Bring in some nice shops, a Panera, a couple nice restaurants and one or two big box stores that those of us life long residents on the West Side between Eaton and Catty Rds. can easily get to and enjoy! Enough with Main St.