Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan is planning to hold a news conference Thursday to discuss the formation of a new city authority that will be designated to oversee a new tax incentive district aimed at spurring new development.
The Pennsylvania Legislature has not selected the Commonwealth’s City Revitalization and Improvement Zones, but Bethlehem officials are hoping to get to the front of the line by being among the first to establish a governing authority.
The Legislature enacted a law in its 2013-14 budget that the state will select two Third Class cities of more than 30,000 people to establish a CRIZ, which has often been described as a “watered-down” version of the Neighborhood Improvement Zone that is financing arena construction and other development projects in Allentown’s downtown.
The CRIZ would allow certain state and local taxes generated by businesses in the zone to be utilized to finance construction and development of commercial, sports, exhibition, hospitality, retail or recreation projects, in addition to other permitted uses, according to a release from the mayor’s office.
Though officials have identified no specific development projects the CRIZ would target, it is likely the city would try to use the incentives for further development of the western end of the former Bethlehem Steel property.
Nearly a year ago, city and Northampton County officials announced their intention of trying to attract a developer to build a massive convention center near the Sands Resort Casino.
The burgeoning arts and entertainment district already includes the Sands Outlet Shoppes and Event Center, the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks and the new PBS-39 office and studios.
The city may also want to use the new incentives to redevelop Martin Tower on Eighth Avenue. The 21-story glass and steel cruciform building—the tallest in the Lehigh Valley, which served as Bethlehem Steel headquarters during its final years, has languished vacant for nearly a decade.
City Council has been asked to adopt a resolution enabling the creation of a CRIZ authority. A public hearing to discuss the CRIZ has been scheduled for Nov. 6, the same night council plans to vote on the resolution.
Callahan has told The Morning Call that he plans to have a list of authority board nominees ready before that public hearing. That may be addressed during Thursday’s news conference.