LVEDC to Host “Conversations and Cocktails” About Bethlehem CRIZ
By Colin McEvoy on November 18, 2014
With downtown Allentown booming with new development thanks to the city’s Neighborhood Improvement Zone (NIZ), the city of Bethlehem is now looking ahead to the many economic development opportunities it will be afforded thanks to a new, similar tax district.
Bethlehem is one of two cities in the state to be granted a City Revitalization and Improvement Zone (CRIZ), which will allow state and local non-property taxes from newly-established businesses to be diverted to help finance new development within the zone.
The non-contiguous 130-acre CRIZ and the unique economic development opportunities that will arise from it will be the subject of discussion at Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. (LVEDC)’s fourth “Conversations and Cocktails” event on December 10.
Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez and state Senator Lisa Boscola will speak during the event, which will be held at the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks starting at 4 p.m. It will provide LVEDC investors a unique opportunity to have targeted interaction about a pressing economic issue in an intimate setting.
Bethlehem is one of only two cities in the state, along with Lancaster, to be awarded a CRIZ. The designation will create jobs and allow for the redevelopment of some of the city’s most challenging sites, including the Bethworks area, the Martin Tower complex and several South Bethlehem infill projects.
“The CRIZ designation will enable Bethlehem to both enhance and accelerate its efforts to bring more jobs and businesses into the city,” Sen. Boscola said. “The potential CRIZ projects and a focused effort to generate private investment are going to be keys to the program’s success here in Bethlehem. We can be a model for the rest of the state on how urban redevelopment can be achieved through strong collaboration between government and the private sector.”
Among the most notable Bethlehem projects within the CRIZ are Sands Bethworks Retail’s plans to convert Machine Shop No. 2 into a shopping and hospitality designation anchored by a Bass Pro Shops, which is expected to draw 2 million visitors annually. That $106.5 million project will also include a hotel and conference center adjacent to the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem.
Also as part of the CRIZ, Martin Tower and its 52-acre campus will be developed in a $175 million office, retail, commercial and residential project. Additionally, a $13 million industrial facility is planned for Lehigh Valley Industrial Park VII land, and Majestic Realty Co.’s Bethlehem Technology Center is planned for vacant land across from the LVIP, a $180 million project.
“The CRIZ is very important to economic development in Bethlehem,” Mayor Donchez said. “It gives incentives to developers to develop properties in the 130 designated acres. It has the potential to revitalize South Bethlehem and other designated CRIZ sites.”
The CRIZ proposal was inspired by Allentown’s NIZ, which has resulted in such projects as the PPL Center hockey arena, the nearly $300 million Waterfront project on former Lehigh Structural Steel land along the Lehigh River, and a projected $500 million in planned downtown projects by developer City Center Lehigh Valley.
The original CRIZ designation called for cities of between 30,000 and 70,000 residents, which would have left Bethlehem ineligible due to its population of 74,982. But the standard was changed after LVEDC’s board of directors, Sen. Boscola and other government officials lobbied the state to lift the population restriction.
“I am proud of the role I played in helping the city to capture one of only two available spots,” Sen. Boscola said. “I was successful in lobbying my colleagues to expand the legislation so that more cities in the Commonwealth would be eligible for this powerful economic development tool.”
An open question-and-answer session will follow Mayor Donchez and Sen. Boscola’s discussion about the CRIZ during the Conversations and Cocktails event. Butlered hors d’oeurves, beer, wine and soft drinks will be served during the networking portion of the event.
This event is made possible by the generous support of our sponsors.
Conversation & Cocktail Series Presenting Sponsor:
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