Bethlehem is planning to open its fourth city-sponsored technology center, Mayor John Callahan announced this morning during his final State of the City address.
The project, currently being called Tau, will reclaim for productive use the East Annex of the Bethlehem Steel General Office Building at E. Third Street and Founders Way.
A new wrinkle in this project is that the center will welcome creativity-based businesses – such as architects, graphic designers and musicians – as well as those in the technology sector to create a dynamic environment that many new companies are looking for, according to Bekah Rusnock, the city’s enterprise zone coordinator.
Also, unlike the three previous technology centers, this one will not be purely an incubator, but “a fully integrated technology center which attracts companies in every stage,” Callahan said.
The last technology center the city developed – the 8,000-square-foot Pi, in the Cantelmi Hardware building – was occupied about as soon as it was completed in 2012, Rusnock said.
“Last year, with the grand opening of Pi: Partnership for Innovation … we put out a call to every entrepreneur, inventor, scientist, developer, hacker, mathematician, student, professor and thinker: Bethlehem wants you,” Callahan said.
“The demand for office space in the Keystone Innovation Zone remains high,” the mayor continued. “As we move from a post-industrial era and build an economy with jobs for the 21st century, we must again reinvest in technology centers, facilities where we can attract and grow the best and brightest companies and individuals.”
In hunting for more space in the Bethlehem’s Keystone Innovation Zone, the administration decided to get more proactive and pursue a larger space, Rusnock said. The East Annex is five-stories tall and has 125,000 square feet of space.
The Tau site is not under the city’s control. It is owned by Sands BethWorks – the investment group led by Michael Perrucci that owns the western 100 acres of former Bethlehem Steel land – the portion of the property that has been conceived as an arts and entertainment district.
Obviously, the city believes it is close to making a deal for the property or Callahan would not have made Tau public today.
Since the building lies within the Keystone Innovation Zone, it is eligible for a number of federal and state financing options to pay for the renovations that will be necessary. The project will likely be financed and developed in phases – perhaps one floor at a time, Rusnock said.
The city, meanwhile, still holds out hope that the remainder of the Steel General Office building can be redeveloped into a mixed-use office and residential space, Rusnock said.