Catasauqua Committee to Explore the Iron Works Project

The Catasauqua Borough Council created a special committee to decide how to move the stagnant Iron Works project forward.

The committee will be made up of board chairman Brian Bartholomew and board members Howard Cunningham and Cameron Smith, as decided at a July 25 meeting.

The previous failure of a years-long plan to sell and transform the property sparked community outrage, including complaints of wasted money and a lack of government transparency.

The $650,000 deal would have seen the borough sell 10 acres of the former Iron Works industrial site to commercial real estate firm Dunn Twiggar to redevelop it into a mixed-use downtown.

The $42 million redevelopment, which included apartments, public gathering spaces, stores, doctors’ offices and banks, would have created 80 to 100 jobs and brought in $1.2 million in annual revenue for the borough , according to former board chairman Vincent Smith. Other benefits would have included avoiding raising taxes for projects such as road repairs and Catasauqua water plant upgrades, he said – in essence, rejuvenation of the region.

“I don’t even know how they could undertake these capital projects without this revenue generator,” he said before the meeting.

Borough attorney Thomas Dinkelacker said the borough essentially has two options to consider moving forward with the sale of the Iron Works property: announce it publicly to the highest bidder or sell it to the Lehigh County Redevelopment Authority.

Reaffirming that the hope is always to bring improvements and rejuvenation of the quality of life to the borough, he added that the special committee will discuss topics such as determining market values ​​and sale prices, how to design possible sales proposals and whether the zoning needs to be changed. It’s possible Dunn Twiggar could get involved again, Dinkelacker said.

Committee meetings will be open to the public, with the exception of executive sessions.

At a meeting in June, Borough Council member Eugene Schlegel told residents the project was not dead and he would still like to see the development go ahead, but added that the borough didn’t have the money for that. He cited Catasauqua’s $20 million debt.

“We have no more money!” he said. “We are broke! »

Bartholomew echoed those sentiments during the reunion.

“We are trying to move forward,” he said. “I don’t want it hanging around here. I grew up three blocks from here. I don’t sit still, I want it to grow. I want to see houses.

In 2017, the borough inaugurated an $11 million municipal building on a corner of the site, housing its borough offices, fire department and police station. The remaining 10 acres contain remnants of its industrial past such as Crane Iron Works, dating from 1839, the site of the first successful commercial producer anthracite iron.

The property changed hands between several manufacturing companies after World War I, then ceased production in 2002. The most recent tenant, a cement manufacturing company called FLSmidth, put the property on the market in 2004. borough bought it in 2013 for $750,000.

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