This city has converted an old steel mill into an arts center. Could Billings do something similar with their old Corette site? | Local news

As bankruptcy loomed, Bethlehem Steel did not readily give up the plant, said the company’s retired chairman Hank Barnette.

“We wanted to fix it, sell it, or shut it down. We had eight sites that underperformed, including Bethlehem, ”he said. “We spent $ 100 million upgrading Bethlehem and we didn’t sell it successfully so we had to shut it down.”

The company “could have put up a fence and walked away, but we chose to be a good citizen,” he said. Bethlehem Steel convinced lawmakers to amend the state environmental law so that the site can be covered, covered and expanded into one of the largest industrial wastelands in the country. Now it is on the right track to achieve UNESCO World Heritage status.

“We were very fortunate that Bethlehem Steel stayed on, but it cost a lot of public money,” said Don Cunningham, who was Bethlehem Mayor at the time and is now President and CEO of Lehigh Valley Development Corp. is.

Forming a $ 750 million tax hike funding development was “a major risk,” he said. “We said to people, ‘We’re borrowing $ 50 million to build infrastructure and streetscape, and we have no way of paying back.’ It was a tough sale. “

But history, sweat, and pride were on their side.

“These blast furnaces are an icon,” said Darlene Heller, Bethlehem Planning Director. “Everyone knows them and wanted them to stay, and they are as beautiful as they are. As long as they are structurally sound, we will just let them be. “

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