Arts center rises from ashes of industry

    An old industrial site near Allentown is about to be revived as an arts complex.

    An old industrial site near Allentown is about to be revived as an arts complex. City planners in Bethlehem have approved a project that will build a performance venue, cinema, meeting space and public broadcasting station on the site of the old Bethlehem Steel Company. The project will refurbish some buildings and destroy others.

    Listen:
    [audio: 090929pcbethlehem.mp3]

    Steel is no longer made in Bethlehem, but the town is holding onto its roots. A newly built casino retains an industrial theme, and a nearby museum is dedicated to steel.

    The planned arts and entertainment campus called SteelStacks will refurbish some buildings – like the old Twist and Grind Shop – and tear down others, like the Hammer Shop.

    Kim Plyler of the development organization – ArtsQuest – says the Hammer Shop will become a 4-story performing arts center with a view of the blast furnace towers.

    Plyler: Those blast furnaces create such a cool skyline. they are being refurbished and will be illuminated at night. The whole project is centered around those so we can capture and keep the history of the Beth steel in the forefront of people’s minds.

    The development has opposition from preservationists who say the arts campus should be created with existing buildings.

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