Martin Tower Bethlehem implosion site 1 year later

Martin Tower site in Bethlehem on May 19, 2020, one year after the building was imploded

BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Bethlehem City Council on Tuesday night forwarded an amendment that would provide zoning relief for the Martin Tower site following a public hearing.

The amendment is considered a compromise for a proposal submitted by developers Lewis Ronca and Norton Herrick, and it could attract approval from councilmembers who did not support the original amendment.

The bill was offered in June by Councilman Michael Colon in an effort to prevent a stalemate. The original amendment, Colon said previously, did not adequately limit the number of parking rows that could hypothetically be constructed on lots in the city's Office/Mixed-Use district.

His amendment "attempts to address this concern by limiting the number of driving (aisles) and rows of parking spaces placed between a principal commercial building and the curb line of an arterial streets along the front of lots in the OMU District to two driving aisles and four rows of parking spaces."

The city's planning commission voted unanimously July 8 to recommend the amendment's approval. The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission said while the amendment was "an improvement," it would "result in automobile-dependent development patterns at a suburban scale which are not the most conducive to multimodal accessibility."

No vote was taken on the amendment Tuesday night. The bill will receive its first reading at council's Aug. 3 meeting. Colon did not attend Tuesday's meeting.

Council also received a presentation on the Martin Tower plan from an independent planner — Bethlehem-based Alloy5 Architecture — hired by the developer to review the plan at Mayor Robert Donchez's request. In a presentation to council, the firm noted it was "an appropriate plan."

Donchez said the changes make the plan "much improved." The city's Director of Planning and Zoning Darlene Heller agreed.

The 53-acre property, located at 1170 Eighth Ave., previously served as the world headquarters for the former Bethlehem Steel Corporation and is considered by the city and regional agencies as key development. The proposal by developers features 300 apartment units, a 130-room hotel, two medical offices, a restaurant, gas station, grocery store, retail and parking.

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