New interest in the Catasauqua Iron Works site

It turns out there’s still life in the previously closed Iron Works project in Catasauqua, as several entities have expressed interest in developing the former industrial site with the borough.

Borough attorney Thomas Dinkelacker said officials received five such “expressions of interest,” four of which were from outside the Lehigh Valley.

He said he couldn’t reveal their names and the borough has yet to decide how to sell the property: by partnering with the Lehigh County Development Authority or by seeking bids independently.

Prior to any sale or development, Catasauqua Council voted Monday to have SJ Thomas Co. of Lansdowne, Delaware County, remove asbestos and lead paint from the site for approximately $34,000. The council also authorized Remington & Vernick Engineering of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, to survey a 10-acre piece of land on the site called Lot 2 and report on how the borough and its partners might develop it.

The borough is also awaiting input from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Lehigh County Conservation District regarding any environmental or development concerns these agencies may have regarding the site.

The previous failure of a year-long plan to sell and transform the property sparked outrage from the community, 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 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 to the borough, according to former council president Vincent Smith. Other benefits would have included avoiding raising taxes for projects such as road repairs and upgrading the Catasauqua water plant, he said.

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 as the Crane Iron Works, dating back to 1839, the country first successful commercial producer of anthracite iron.

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