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BethWorks Now!

A casino in the old steel mill? For some, an unusual way to memorialize a part of our nation’s history. For others, it would create a sense of renewal and revitalization in South Bethlehem. But is it ever going to happen? Bethlehem Steel closed its doors Nov. 18, 1995. As the ten year anniversary approaches, people are asking: Will it ever come to fruition?

What is BethWorks? Local lawyer Michael Perrucci and the Las Vegas-based Sands Casino Company want to put in a casino which could host up to 5,000 slot machines on the steel mill site. The project will feature a monorail and a National Museum of Industrial History. Local officials say the casino could help ease $374 million in city debt – about half the profits would go into local government coffers. In a Sept. 9, 2005 article in the Morning Call, Perrucci said “We’re going to save Bethlehem Steel’s legacy, we’re going to create jobs, we’re going to buy local goods and we’re going to make room for local business people.”

A casino in Pennsylvania? Perrucci said he expects the state’s 14 gambling licenses to be issued by June, and if one is approved for the project in Bethlehem, construction would begin immediately on a $350 million complex that would include 3,000 slot machines, a hotel, bars and restaurants. A few months later, mall developer Mills Corp., of Arlington, VA., would begin construction of an 800,000-square-foot upscale shopping mall.

Will the South Bethlehem skyline change? Perrucci said the “developer’s agreement would contain commitments to preserve several Bethlehem Steel structures on the 126-acre tract, including the iron foundry, the former headquarters, the annex, the elevated rail ore-moving system, the blast furnaces, the ore bridge, the high house, the gas blowing engine house and portions of the massive No. 2 machine shop.”

How is Bethlehem welcoming this controversial idea? During the past few months, there have been multiple meetings with the BethWorks Now team telling residents what the owners plan to do with the site. This year at Musikfest, there was a display showing some of the renderings of the site including the infamous No.2 Machine Shop (the largest industrial building in the world when it was built in 1890). On Sept. 20, 2005, the city council rejected a plan to prohibit gambling by a vote of 4-3 paving the way for the state Gaming Control Board to decide whether gambling will come to Southside Bethlehem. BethWorks Now must now submit an application to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. There are only two licenses that are as yet unassigned and BethWorks Now needs one.

In 2004, the National Trust included the Bethlehem Steel Plant on its list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

Stats on the project:

Total Cost of Project: $879 million
Cost of slots casino: $300 million
Size of casino: 300,000 square feet
Number of slot machines: Up to 5,000
Casino Hotel: 500-1,000 rooms
Size of retail mall: 800,000 square feet
On-site apartments: 1,000-1,200
Concert arena: 2,500-3,000 seats

For more information about BethWorks Now, visit: http://www.saveoursteel.org/

For more information about the history of Bethlehem Steel visit: http://www.bethlehempaonline.com/steel.html

For more information about the bridges of Bethlehem Steel visit:
http://www.bethlehempaonline.com/bridges_album/index.htm

Lehigh Grad students survey South Side residents about the proposed project
http://www3.lehigh.edu/News/news_story.asp?iNewsID=1210

Posted on Tuesday, November 08, 2005

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