Originally published by the Buffalo News, “Judge lifts stay of demolition on former Bethlehem Steel building,” by Mark Sommers, 2012 11 27.
The former Bethlehem Steel administration building in Lackawanna moved closer to demolition today after an appeal was rejected by an Erie County Court judge.
A 90-day stay had been issued by Judge Kenneth F. Case to give time to Gateway Trade Center, the building’s owner, to explore alternatives to demolition.
But in Case’s courtroom today, no alternatives were presented by the company’s lawyer, who also didn’t dispute the City of Lackawanna’s contention – rejected by preservationists – that the building was not salvageable.
Instead, the attorney for Gateway – a subsidiary of New Enterprise Stone and Lime Co. of New Enterprise, Pa. – argued that demolition was costly and that more time was needed. The city’s attorney argued that was not its concern.
Case said he had no alternative but to uphold the order of demolition obtained earlier by the City of Lackawanna.
Gateway had been in discussions with the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to develop a plan and prepare a full structural analysis of the three-story, Beaux Arts-style 1901 building, with its ornate facade that includes graceful columns and decorative Corinthian pilasters, pediments and dormers.
Preservationists have urged that the decaying building be saved for its architectural and historic value as an iconic building from the region’s industrial era.
The “I’m Steel Standing” event last Sunday outside of the Bethlehem Steel North Administration Building, drew nearly 100 local residents and former employees to the historic site. For several months now, the push has been on to engage local residents in an intense campaign of increasing support for the landmark’s adaptive reuse. Online and paper petitions have been circulated (with over 500 signatures gathered), a website has been built, which received over 2,000 visits in less than a week, a short film was made, and a whirlwind of media attention has been focused on the building, which is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
With Judge Kenneth Case set to issue a decision on the stay of demolition in Erie County Court Tuesday morning, the Lackawanna Industrial Heritage Group (LIHG) is continuing to speak out, and canvass local neighborhoods. Petition signatures will be delivered to Mayor Geoffrey Szymanski on Tuesday, November 27th. LIHG will meet in front of Lackawanna City Hall, 714 Ridge Road at 3pm, and the media and public are invited.
Despite the fact that the State Historic Preservation Office has declared the building structurally sound, this important part of our cultural heritage is under threat of demolition by both the City of Lackawanna, and its private owners, Gateway Trade. LIHG seeks to build consensus, and has presented several adaptive reuse ideas, connected the owners to historic tax credit specialists, and is willing to be the conduit to potential developers. LIHG is calling on the City to relinquish its efforts to force demolition, and rather to pursue Certified Local Government status, which will open the doors for grant money and a meaningful dialogue about preservation’s economic development benefits. LIHG asks Gateway Trade to issue a formal Request for Proposals, and properly board up the building in the meantime.
For more information, please contact the Lackawanna Industrial Heritage Group at (716-253-7775), visit http://www.imsteelstanding.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.