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City Planners Approve Massive Warehouse

1.35 million square foot building could bring 500 more jobs to former Steel site.

The Bethlehem Planning Commission Thursday gave quick approval to developer Liberty Property Trust for a 1,350,000 square foot warehouse on a 107.3-acre lot along Commerce Center Boulevard in Lehigh Valley Industrial Park VII, Phase 4.  

The proposed facility, in the city’s southeast corner on former Bethlehem Steel Corp. land, could open up 500 jobs and bring hundreds of thousands of dollars in real estate taxes.

Plans call for 406 public and employee parking spaces at the north and south ends of the property, with 693 tractor-trailer spaces on either side of the building. In recommending approval, the planning bureau noted that it recommended safer access to the building from a 97-car parking area at one end of the property and a secondary exit.

Liberty Property Trust officials said the warehouse distribution center in the business park could have multiple tenants, but declined to name specifics. Work on the center could begin immediately.

Questioned about energy efficiency and environmental concerns, Robert Kiel, representing the Malvern, Pa.-based real estate investment trust, said the company is actively engaged with environmental groups to address concerns.

He pointed out that three of the developer’s projects have received Energy Star ratings. He also noted that the storm sewer plan for the project is extensive, the building will likely have a white roof, and solar energy is among considerations. In addition, extensive landscaping has been installed and the warehouse will be visually enhanced with paint and accent stripes.

City officials are hopeful that potential jobs associated with the project will have a major impact on unemployment in the city and region.

Liberty Property Trust, the successor to Rouse & Associates, a company formed in 1972 to develop warehouse space in southern New Jersey, owns more than 65-million square feet of office and industrial space throughout the United States and United Kingdom.

Rouse & Associates developed One Liberty Place, the first skyscraper in Philadelphia taller than Philadelphia City Hall. In 1994, Rouse & Associates changed its name to Liberty Property Trust.  One of its most recent projects is the Comcast Center in Philadelphia.

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